WASHINGTON (October 18, 2007)—Youth ministry is a critical need for the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox churches, according to participants in the 2007 session of the Roman Catholic – Oriental Orthodox Consultation, September 20-21, in Riverdale, New York.
Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany and Chorbishop John Meno of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch chaired the consultation.
Last year's consultation set the theme for the 2007 meeting acknowledging that all the participating churches are very much aware of the importance of working with young people in order to hand down their respective traditions and ensuring their churches' future.
Attendees heard two presentations. On September 20, Mary Derderian of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church, spoke about the special circumstances of teenagers who belong to the Oriental Orthodox Churches. The following day Father Joseph H. Fitzgerald of St. Killian's parish in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, described forms of youth ministry that have worked well in Catholic settings. Additional brief presentations explained specific youth ministry programs in the Armenian, Coptic, Malankara and Syrian Orthodox Churches in the United States.
The presentations offered the members an opportunity to reflect on the challenges that young people face in today's post-modern environment, the need to listen to them, to speak their language, and to try to utilize their social networks. Above all, there is a need to offer teenagers an identity in Christ and his Church that can nourish and spiritually uplift them. Dialogue members found that the challenges in all the churches are similar and discussed how they could cooperate in this crucial pastoral effort.
Also on September 20, the members of the dialogue considered important developments in the lives of their churches over the past year. Items discussed included the most recent session of the international dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the recent reconciliation between the Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches, the status of Patriarch Antonios of Eritrea, and individual reports about the Armenian, Coptic and Syrian Orthodox Churches as well as the Maronite Catholic Church. The members also considered two recent Vatican documents: Summorum Pontificum, the papal motu proprio on the Roman Liturgy prior to the Reform of 1970, and the document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church."
The United States Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Consultation, established in 1978, 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 Oriental Orthodox Churches in America. The Standing Conference includes representatives from the Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syrian, 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 significant 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."