Orthodox and Catholic Bishops Hold 16th Meeting Continue Progress Toward Unity

March 17, 1999 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON--The sixteenth meeting of the Joint Committee of Orthodox andCatholic Bishops took place at Antiochian Village, Ligonier, PA, from March 9 to 11. The bishops of the two churches discussed several topicsof mutual concern and decided to move towards a statement in the year 2000 affirming their progress towards unity.

As a part of their continuing discussion of primacy and conciliarity intheir two churches, the bishops focused their attention on the development of conciliar structures in the Catholic Church as provided for in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. The relationship between the Roman Pontiff and the College of Bishops was examined, as well as such structures as the Synod of Bishops and the College of Cardinals, along with conciliarity at the level of several local churches, national bishops' conferences, and individual dioceses. The bishops also heard areport on recent scholarship regarding the role of Peter in the New Testament. The sacramental practice of the Catholic Church was also discussed in light of developments since the Second Vatican Council, with special emphasis on the roles of the clergy and the laity at the Eucharist.

The Bishops continued their ongoing examination of the increasingly common reality of Orthodox-Catholic marriages. They agreed on the need to work towards further steps to provide better pastoral care for such couples.

The members of the Joint Committee visited St. Vincent's Archabbey in Latrobe where they attended the community Mass and were hosted at dinner by Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, OSB. They held an evening session at the Archabbey. The bishops expressed their gratitude for thehospitality of the Benedictine community. During the meeting they alsoattended Orthros (Matins) and Vespers celebrated by the priests of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Pittsburgh and their families who were on retreat at Antiochian Village.

Plans were made to hold the next session of the Joint Committee in Greece in the year 2000. This will provide an opportunity for the bishops to learn first hand of the ecumenical situation in Greece, and to share something of their own experience of dialogue in America with the Orthodox and Catholic faithful of that country.

The Orthodox members of the Joint Committee are Metropolitan Maximos of Ainou, Bishop of Pittsburgh (Co-Chairman); Metropolitan Isaiah of Proikonisos, Bishop of Denver; Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos (Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Diocese); Metropolitan Christopher of the Serbian Orthodox Church; Archbishop Peter of New York(Orthodox Church in America); Bishop Vsevolod of Scopelos (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA); and Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa (Orthodox Church in America).

The Catholic members are Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee (Co-Chairman); William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore; Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett of Seattle; Bishop Dale Melczek of Gary;Bishop Robert E. Mulvee of Providence; Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb of Mobile; Bishop Edward Kmiec of Nashville; and Bishop Nicholas Samra, auxiliary of Newton of the Melkites.

Staff attending the meeting were Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, Ecumenical Officer of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and Rev. Dr. Ronald G. Roberson, CSP, Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB).

The Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops was created in 1981 as a joint initiative of the NCCB and the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas. It works in tandem with theNorth American Catholic-Orthodox Theological Consultation, which has been meeting regularly since 1965.