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Concern For Immigrants, Middle East Christians Focus Of Catholic Dialogue With Oriental Orthodox

October 23, 2012

WASHINGTON—Catholics and Oriental Orthodox church leaders agreed that they would benefit from a better exchange of information regarding the programs available for new immigrant arrivals in the United States. The group of 20 participants representing Roman Catholics and five Oriental Orthodox churches were gathered for the Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Consultation, October 15-16, at the Divine Compassion Spirituality Center in White Plains, New York.

As part of its mission to foster Christian unity, the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) meets annually with members of the Oriental Orthodox churches. Along with ministering to immigrant communities, the dialogue also discussed the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, New York, and Metropolitan Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim of the Eastern Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (Oriental Orthodox) co-chaired the dialogue. This was the Metropolitan's first meeting since his appointment as new co-chairman of the dialogue. He succeeds Very Reverend Chorbishop John Meno, also of the Syriac Orthodox Church, who had served as Oriental Orthodox co-chairman since 1985 and recently retired from the active ministry. The members expressed their gratitude to Father Meno for his many years of faithful service to this dialogue.

Presenters at the dialogue were Maronite Catholic Bishop Gregory Mansour of Brooklyn, Allison Posner, director of advocacy for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Julianne Barsoum Jabaly of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and Michael Guglielmo, executive director of the Armenian Eastern Diocese.

On Monday evening the members traveled to St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New Rochelle, New York. Together they celebrated Armenian Vespers in the seminary chapel and attended a dinner hosted by Father Daniel Findikyan, the rector. Later in the evening the members had a wide-ranging discussion of major events in the lives of their churches both in the United States and overseas.

On Tuesday morning the dialogue examined the situation of Christians in the Middle East. Bishop Mansour presented the recent Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI, Ecclesia in Medio Oriente. He discussed the structure and functioning of the Synod of Bishops, and what the document had to say about the Christian presence in that part of the world. The members are deeply worried about the future of Christian communities in the region.

At last year's October meeting, the members examined the history of this dialogue and the 2010 statement of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, entitled "Steps Towards a Reunited Church: A Sketch of an Orthodox-Catholic Vision For the Future" ( It is scheduled to meet again in October 2013.

The Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Consultation was established in 1978, and is sponsored jointly by the USCCB Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches America (SCOOCH), which includes representatives from the Armenian (Catholicossate of Etchmiadzin), Coptic, Ethiopian, and Syriac Orthodox Churches.

More information on the U.S. bishops' ongoing dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox is available online:


Keywords: Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interrelgious Affairs, SEIA, Roman Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, dialogue, Bishop Howard Hubbard, Bishop Gregory Mansour, Metropolitan Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim, immigrants, Middle East

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Don Clemmer
O: 202-541-3206

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