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Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Consultation Studies Religious Education, Theological Issues

June 8, 2001

WASHINGTON (June 8, 2001) -- The annual meeting of the United States Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Consultation took place at the Cardinal Spellman Retreat House in Bronx, New York, on June 4 and 5, 2001. The meeting was chaired on the Catholic side by Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, and on the Oriental Orthodox side by the Right Reverend Chorbishop John Meno of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch.

Following up on a decision at last year's meeting to explore areas of pastoral concern in which the churches could fruitfully cooperate, the first session was devoted to religious education. Rev. Anthony Salim, the pastor of St. Maron Parish in Youngstown, Ohio, and director of religious education for the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, presented the extensive series of religious education materials his office has produced for use at the elementary, high school and adult levels. There was a wide ranging discussion of the ways in which the churches are presented in each other's religious education materials and the usefulness of cooperation in the future production of such materials by churches whose traditions are similar. There was a consensus that Eastern Catholics and Oriental Orthodox face a common challenge to help their faithful preserve their religious and cultural heritage while fully integrated into modern American society.

The members also examined a number of events of mutual interest in the lives of their churches, including the visit of the Armenian Catholicos to Rome in November 2000 and the planned visit of Pope John Paul II to Armenia in September 2001, his Apostolic Letter on the 1700th anniversary of the Baptism of the Armenian People, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's declaration Dominus Iesus, the Pope's recent visit to Syria, and the current situation of the member Oriental Orthodox Churches both in the United States and abroad.

A third session was devoted to theological issues, specifically a study of the way in which bishops are chosen in the respective churches and the theological foundations of those practices. Bishop Hubbard gave a presentation on the Roman Catholic Church, Chorbishop John Faris on the Eastern Catholic churches, Bishop Vicken Aykazian on the Armenian Apostolic Church, Metropolitan Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim on the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, Archbishop Mor Nicholovos Zachariah on the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, Rev. Shenuda Maher on the Coptic Orthodox Church, and Rev. Haregewion Bekele on the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. At the next session, which is to be held in June 2002, the members will examine church-state relations as they relate to social justice issues from the perspective of their various churches.

The United States Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Consultation was founded in 1978. It is sponsored jointly by the NCCB Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the United States. The Standing Conference includes American jurisdictions of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church.

In 1995 the Consultation authorized the joint publication of a book entitled Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Interchurch Marriages and Other Pastoral Relationships (United States Catholic Conference Publication No. 097-4), which contains its joint statements, useful studies, guidelines, and other documentation pertaining to the relationship between the two communions. In 1999 it issued "Guidelines Concerning the Pastoral Care of Oriental Orthodox Students in Catholic Schools."

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