WASHINGTON (October 17, 2001) -- The Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops held its eighteenth meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from October 2 to 4, 2001. It was hosted by Archbishop Rembert Weakland, the Catholic Co-Chairman of the Committee.
The members considered a number of topics of mutual interest during the meeting. Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos presented a paper, "Vinum non Habent: The Ever-Virgin as Intercessor and Paradigm," based on the proceedings of the 1999 Orientale Lumen III Conference whose theme was "Mary the Mother of God and the Church." Bishop Dale Melczek of Gary presented a response to the paper from a Catholic perspective. In addition, Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa and All Canada gave a paper, "The Local Church in the Understanding of the Orthodox" as part of an ongoing discussion of the nature of primacies in our churches and the relationship between the local church and the universal church.
The Committee invited Professor Michael Fahey, SJ, of Marquette University to make a presentation on the theological significance of the work of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation. Fr Fahey served for many years as Catholic Co-Secretary of the Consultation and offered a number of perspectives on the Consultation's work in his paper, which was entitled "Forth-One Years of Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue in the USA: Kind Words, Tough Love, Clearer Heads." The bishops noted with satisfaction that tremendous progress has been made in our relationship in recent decades due in large part to the work of our dialogues.
Archbishop Vsevolod of Scopelos presented a paper, "Finding the Road Home: A Reflection on the Situation of the Byzantine Catholics." Bishop Nicholas Samra of the Eparchy of Newton of the Melkites responded from an Eastern Catholic perspective. The bishops also discussed a number of recent developments in the lives of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, including responses by our churches to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, the appointment of Cardinal Walter Kasper as President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the SCOBA encyclical "And the Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us" and the meeting of SCOBA bishops in Washington in early May, the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, the agreement on marriage reached between the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and the Coptic Orthodox Church, the visits of Pope John Paul II to Greece and Ukraine, the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Rome for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in June 2001, the process of revision of the Charter of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch to Calabria and Sicily in March 2001.
The members also attended two liturgical services during the meeting. On Tuesday evening October 2, they attended a Mass presided over by Archbishop Weakland at Saint Josaphat's Catholic Church. On Wednesday evening October 3 they attended a Vespers service at St. Sava's Serbian Orthodox Church presided over by Metropolitan Christopher. Since this is the last meeting that Archbishop Weakland will attend before submitting his resignation to Pope John Paul II on his 75th birthday on April 2, 2002, the Orthodox members presented him with an icon of Christ and the Four Evangelists to thank him for his years of service as Co-Chairman of the Joint Committee.
The Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops was established in 1981 and is currently under the joint chairmanship of Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh and Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee. Other Catholic members of the Committee include William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore, Archbishop Alexander Brunett of Seattle, Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb of Mobile, Bishop Robert Mulvee of Providence, Bishop Dale Melczek of Gary, Bishop Edward Kmiec of Nashville, Bishop Nicholas Samra, Auxiliary of the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Newton, and Rev. Ronald G. Roberson, CSP (staff).
The other Orthodox members include Archbishop Peter of New York (Orthodox Church in America), Archbishop Vsevolod of Scopelos (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA), Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese), Metropolitan Christopher (Serbian Orthodox Church), Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos (Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese), Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa and All Canada (Orthodox Church in America), and Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, staff).
In addition to this Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops, a North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation has been meeting continuously since 1965. At its last meeting in October 2001, the Joint Committee of Bishops issued a common statement entitled "On the Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue At the Dawn of a New Millennium."