WASHINGTON (June 21, 2006)--The United States Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Theological Consultation held its annual meeting on May 30 and 31, 2006, at the Cardinal Spellman Retreat Center in Riverdale, New York. It was co-chaired by Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany and Chorbishop John Meno of the Syriac Orthodox Church.
In the first session, His Eminence Metropolitan Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch gave a presentation on the current state of relations between Oriental Orthodox and their Eastern Catholic counterparts in the United States. The Metropolitan reviewed the history of the formation of the Eastern Catholic Churches, the divisions and difficulties this caused within the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and efforts in the contemporary period to overcome the past and work together to offer a common witness. He urged greater cooperation in the future and suggested that invitations be extended to each other when major events take place, that regular meetings be held between Oriental Orthodox hierarchs and their Eastern Catholic counterparts, and that there be more public interaction among the faithful. The presentation was followed by a discussion of ways to increase this type of cooperation in the United States.
The evening session on May 30 was devoted to an exchange of information about the lives of the participating churches. Items discussed included the third session of the international dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, dialogues between Catholics and Oriental Orthodox in India, relations between the two Oriental Orthodox Churches in India, the status of Patriarch Antonios of Eritrea, the Pope as "Patriarch of the West," developments in the Armenian Apostolic Church, the election of Bishop Vicken Aykazian as President of the National Council of Churches, Pope Benedict XVI's reception of bishops of the Armenian and Ethiopian Catholic Churches, the situation of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the December 2005 Common Declaration of the Oriental Orthodox Patriarchs of the Middle East, the organization of "Christian Churches Together in the USA," developments in the Syriac Orthodox Church, and the General Assembly of the WCC in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
On the morning of May 31 the members discussed marriage and annulments in their churches. The Rev. Chorbishop John D. Faris of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association gave a presentation on Marriage Law in the Eastern Catholic Churches. Bishop David described the theology of marriage and the handling of divorce and remarriage in the Coptic Orthodox Church, and Fr. David Bebawy explained the unified position on marriage that was recently issued by the churches of Egypt. Metropolitan Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim and Fr Shnork Souin then offered a presentation of the understanding of marriage and divorce in the Syriac Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic Churches respectively.
At this meeting the Consultation welcomed four new Oriental Orthodox members: Fr. Tateos Abdalian, Fr Papken Anoushian and Fr Shnork Souin of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and Fr Moises Bogdady of the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese. In addition, Most Rev. Joseph Younan, Bishop of Syriac Catholics in the United States and Canada, attended the meeting. The members also took a moment to remember in prayer Fr. John Long, SJ, a longtime participant in the Consultation, who passed into eternal life on September 20, 2005.
The next meeting of the consultation was set for September 20-21, 2007, again at the Cardinal Spellman Retreat Center. The theme will be youth ministry, with special emphasis on programs for teenagers.
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 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."