Guidelines Issued for Pastoral Care of Oriental Orthodox Students in Catholic Schools

June 11, 1999 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON (June 11, 1999) -- The National Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Theological Consultation issued new Guidelines for the pastoralcare of Oriental Orthodox students in Catholic schools during its meeting at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New Rochelle, NY, June 7-8. The guidelines are intended to promote a more effective realization in Catholic schools of the positive and respectful relationship that now exists between the two communions.

The document recalls that Pope John Paul II has emphasized that ecumenism is an organic part of the church's life and work that must be all pervasive. Therefore, "Among the primary concerns of Catholic schools," the document states, "will be to foster this ecumenical activity and to provide appropriate pastoral care for students who belong to other faith traditions, especially fellow Christians." It makes a number of recommendations that take into account both the ecumenical policies of the Catholic Church and respect for the pastoral discipline of the Oriental Orthodox.

During the meeting, reports were heard about the deteriorating health of His Holiness Karekin I, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and the possibility that the visit of Pope John Paul II to Armenia, currently scheduled to take place in July, will have to be postponed. The members of the Consultation, recalling the ecumenical witness of Catholicos Karekin and the dynamic leadership he has providedfor the Armenian Apostolic Church in this time of newfound freedom and renewal, asked the faithful of their two communions to pray for the health of the Catholicos and for the well being of the Armenian Church.

The consultation also explored the question of the mutual recognition of saints in the two communions. Professor Robin Darling Young of the Catholic University of America made a presentation on the commemoration of Oriental Orthodox saints in the Latin tradition. Father Daniel Findikyan and Father Shenuda Maher described the commemoration of Latin saints in the Armenian and Coptic Churches respectively.

The next meeting of the consultation is scheduled for June 5-6, 2000. It will include an exchange about the approach of the two communions to questions of inculturation and the preservation of ecclesial identity inthe American context.

The Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Theological Consultation is sponsored jointly by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the United States. It has been meeting regularly since 1978. The Oriental Orthodox Churches represented are the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church. The Co-Chairmen of the Consultation are Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany and Chorbishop JohnMeno of the Syrian Orthodox Church.