WASHINGTON (November 4, 2004) -– The Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops held its twenty-first meeting from October 5 to 7 in St. Andrew Memorial Church at the Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolia Center in South Bound Brook, New Jersey. It was chaired jointly by Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb of Mobile and Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa and All Canada of the Orthodox Church in America.
During the course of the meeting the bishops had an opportunity to discuss the recent work of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation. Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos reported that the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the Americas (SCOBA) decided at its meeting in September to receive the Consultation's 1999 agreed statement, "Baptism and 'Sacramental Economy'", and to forward it to the heads of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches for their information and consideration. The agreed statement includes a recommendation that the Patriarchate of Constantinople formally withdraw its 1755 decree requiring the rebaptism of Roman Catholics who are received into the Orthodox Church.
The members of the Joint Committee also had an opportunity to study the Consultation's most recent agreed statement, "The Filioque: A Church-Dividing Issue?", released on October 25, 2003. On the evening of October 5 the bishops heard a detailed presentation of the text by Rev. Brian Daley, SJ, the Catholic Co-Secretary of the dialogue. The Catholic members of the Joint Committee subsequently voted unanimously to send the filioque document to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops via the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs with the request that the recommendations be pursued expeditiously by the appropriate Conference agencies and in the appropriate fashion. Among other things, the agreed statement recommends that the Catholic Church, following a growing theological consensus, and in particular the statements made by Pope Paul VI, declare that the condemnation made at the Second Council of Lyons (1274) of those "who presume to deny that the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son" is no longer applicable.
On October 6 the bishops examined two recent texts issued by Pope John Paul II. Bishop Tod D. Brown of Orange presented the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia that was released on April 17, 2003. Archbishop Nicolae of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Canada offered a response from the Orthodox perspective. In addition, Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb gave an overview of the Pope's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores gregis (October 16, 2003) regarding the ministry of Bishops in the Church. A paper by Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos responding to the papal document was read in his absence. On the morning of October 7, Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa offered some reflections on primacy and conciliarity in the Church in his paper, "The Petrine Ministry and Orthodox Perception."
The bishops also devoted one session to discussion of major events in the lives of their churches and Catholic-Orthodox relations over the past year.
On the evening of October 6 the members attended a Vespers service celebrated by His Eminence Archbishop Antony, President of the Ukrainian Orthodox Consistory. He then hosted the members to a festive dinner in historic Fisher House on the grounds of the Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolia Center.
Plans were made for the twenty-second meeting of the Joint Committee to take place next October in Syria as a guest of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. The discussions will focus on the Eastern Catholic Churches, especially those present in the Middle East and the ecumenical relationships among them, and on the Petrine ministry in the Church.
The Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops was established in 1981, and is sponsored jointly by the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas.
The Catholic members of the Committee include Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb of Mobile (Co-Chairman); William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore; Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati; Bishop Tod D. Brown of Orange; Bishop Robert Mulvee of Providence; Bishop Dale Melczek of Gary; Bishop Nicholas Samra, Auxiliary of the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Newton; Bishop Richard Sklba, Auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee; and Rev. Ronald G. Roberson, CSP (staff).
The Orthodox members are Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada (Co-Chairman, Orthodox Church in America), 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), Archbishop Nicolae (Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada), Bishop Gerasimos of Krateia (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese), and Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, staff).