WASHINGTON (June 20, 2005)—Relations between Oriental Orthodox and their Eastern Catholic counterparts in the United States, and the positions of the churches regarding proselytism, were topics discussed at the 2005 meeting of the United States Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Consultation.
Co-chaired by Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany and Very Rev. Chorbishop John Meno of the Syriac (Syrian) Orthodox Church of Antioch, the meeting was held at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New Rochelle, NY, June 9.
The meeting was somewhat abbreviated due to the absence of one of the presenters, His Eminence Metropolitan Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of the Eastern United States, who was called away on urgent business. On the Catholic side, Fr John Long, SJ, offered an overview of the Catholic Church's understanding of proselytism, with special emphasis on relations with the Coptic Orthodox Church, in the period immediately following the Second Vatican Council. Fr. Ronald Roberson, CSP, then explained the development of this policy after the end of communism in Eastern and Central Europe, especially as described in the 1992 Vatican document, "General Principles and Practical Norms for Coordinating the Evangelizing Activity and Ecumenical Commitment of the Catholic Church in Russia and in the other Countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States."
The members of the dialogue also had an opportunity to review major developments in their churches during the past year. The situations of the Syriac Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Coptic Orthodox Churches were considered, as well as the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI, the visit of the Syriac Patriarch to India, and the seventh meeting of the heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in the Middle East. Fr. Roberson reported on the second meeting of the International dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches which took place in Rome last January.
The participants were particularly grateful to Fr Daniel Findikyan, the Rector of St. Nersess Seminary for the gracious hospitality they experienced during the meeting. They also warmly welcomed two guests at this session, Most Reverend Gregory J. Mansour, the Bishop of the Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, and Most Reverend Manuel Batakian, Apostolic Exarch for Armenian Catholics in the United States and Canada.
The 2006 session of the dialogue is due to take place on May 30-31, 2006, at the Cardinal Spellman Retreat Center in Bronx, New York. Metropolitan Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim will give his paper on relations between the Oriental Orthodox and their Eastern Catholic counterparts in the United States, and the way in which the various churches deal pastorally with divorce and remarriage will also be examined.
The United States Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Consultation was established in 1978, and is sponsored jointly by the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches in America. The Standing Conference includes representatives from the Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syriac, and Malankara Syrian Orthodox churches. In 1995 the Consultation published "Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Interchurch Marriages and Other Pastoral Relationships," which includes pastoral guidelines for marriages involving the faithful of the two communions as well as ample documentation about the development of the ecumenical relationship between the two communions in recent decades. In 1999 it issued "Guidelines Concerning the Pastoral Care of Oriental Orthodox Students in Catholic Schools."