North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation Issues Statement on Value of Ecumenical Witness

June 12, 2000 By Public Affairs Office
WASHINGTON (June 12, 2000) – The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation issued a common statement on the value of ecumenical witness on June 1, the final day of its meeting at the Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. This was the 58th meeting of the Consultation, which has been in progress since 1965.

Entitled "Sharing the Ministry of Reconciliation: A Statement on the Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue and the Ecumenical Movement," the common statement is a reflection on the experience of dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox in North America. It places the work of the Consultation within the broader framework of the international Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, and the growth in positive relations between the two communions in recent decades. The members of the Consultation took the occasion of the 35th anniversary of its existence to reaffirm the importance of the ecumenical witness of the two churches, and to call for an intensification of the dialogue. The text cites a certain apathy and even opposition to the ecumenical enterprise within some groups in both communions, and responds to their concerns. Aware of new tensions in Orthodox-Catholic relations that have followed the reestablishment of religious freedom in Eastern Europe, the Consultation expressed the conviction that the restoration of unity is God's will, that past divisions have wounded the lives of both our churches, that our disunity diminishes our ability to act as agents of reconciliation in our world today, and that solid theological reflection rooted in scripture and nurtured by prayer is essential if full reconciliation is to be achieved. The document also honors those Orthodox and Catholics of the past who struggled to preserve the unity of the churches. It places the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue within the context of the ecumenical movement at large, and recognizes that the work of other bilateral dialogues among the churches have benefitted the work of the North American Consultation. The common statement concludes with a reaffirmation of the reestablishment of full communion as the ultimate goal of the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue that is taking place at many levels. It recognizes that this will be a gradual process which must end not in the victory of one side over the other, but with "the victory of Christ over our divisions, for the sake of the salvation of all."

The Consultation also continued its study of the filioque, the addition of the phrase "and the Son" to the Latin version of the Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed's article on the procession of the Holy Spirit. Professor Alkiviadis Calivas reviewed the scriptural evidence on this question as presented in Boris Bobrinskoy's book, The Mystery of the Trinity: Trinitarian Experience and Vision in the Biblical and Patristic Tradition. Professor Brian Daley, SJ, presented a paper entitled, Revisiting the "Filioque" (II): Anselm and Thomas Aquinas. The Consultation is still in the early stages of a major study of this matter, which for many centuries has been one of the points of disagreement between Catholics and Orthodox that has prevented the reestablishment of full communion.

While meeting at Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, the members of the Consultation were given a tour of the new Archbishop Iakovos Library and Learning Center, a major new addition to the campus. At the end of the proceedings the members were honored with a greeting from Archbishop Demetrios of America, who joined them for lunch.

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation meets under the auspices of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of America, the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. The 59th meeting of the Consultation is scheduled to take place in Washington, DC, from October 26 to 28, 2000.

The Co-Chairmen of the Consultation are Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh and Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee. The other members of the Consultation are, from the Catholic Church: Rev. Brian E. Daley, SJ; Rev. Msgr. Frederick McManus, Rev. George C. Berthold, Prof. Thomas E. Bird, Rev. Peter Galadza, Rev. John P. Galvin, Sister Donna Geernaert, SC, Rev. Sidney H. Griffith, ST, Rev. John F. Long, SJ, Rev. David M. Petras, Prof. Robin Darling Young, and Rev. Ronald G. Roberson, CSP (staff); from the Orthodox Church: Rev. Thomas E. FitzGerald, Archbishop Peter of New York and New Jersey, Rev. Nicholas Apostola, Prof. Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Rev. Alkiviadis Calivas, Rev. James Dutko, Prof. John H. Erickson, Rev. Alexander Golitzin, Rev. Emmanuel Gratsias, Dr. Robert Haddad, Prof. Lewis Patsavos, Rev. Paul W. S. Schneirla, Rev. Robert Stephanopoulos, and Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos (staff).