North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation Holds First Meeting in Canada

November 20, 2002 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON (November 20, 2002) -- The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation has met for the first time in Canada. It convened at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario, from October 31 to November 2, 2002, under the auspices of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). This 63rd meeting of the Consultation was co-chaired by Metropolitan Maximos of the Greek Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

To commemorate this historic occasion, the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies invited Father Thomas FitzGerald, the Orthodox Co-Secretary of the Consultation and Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, to give a lecture at the University on the evening of October 31 entitled, "The Catholic-Orthodox Dialogues: Perspectives on the Eucharist." At the end of the lecture Archbishop Pilarczyk paid tribute to Sister Donna Geernaert, SC, a member of the Consultation who is concluding 18 years of service as Director of the Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations at the CCCB, and presented her with an icon from the Consultation members. Sister Donna will be leaving that position because she has been elected Congregational Leader of her religious order, the Sisters of Charity of Halifax. As the first theological session began, Father Dr. Dale M. Schlitt, O.M.I., the Rector of Saint Paul University, welcomed the group to the campus.

The main focus of this meeting was a continued examination of the filioque question. The original version of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed that dates from the 4th century and is still used by the Orthodox states that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father." The word filioque ("and from the Son") was later added to the Latin version of this Creed used in the West, so that the phrase would read that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son." This modification appeared in some areas of western Europe as early as the 5th century but was accepted in Rome only in the 11th century. This change in the wording of the Creed and the underlying variations in understanding the origin and procession of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity have long been considered a church-dividing issue between our two communions. The Consultation has been studying this question since 1999 in the hope of eventually releasing an agreed statement. During the first session of this meeting two papers were presented: "The Council of Constantinople, 879-880," by Dr. Robert Hadad, and "The Status of the Councils of II Lyons and Florence in Modern Catholic Thought," by Father John Long, SJ. Two other sessions were devoted to discussion of the first draft of a prospective agreed statement.

The Consultation members also discussed major events in the lives of the two churches that had taken place since the last meeting. These included the meeting of U.S. Catholic Bishops in Dallas in June, the visit of Romanian Patriarch Teoctist to Rome, autonomy for the Antiochian Archdiocese, the Israeli government's non-recognition of Patriarch Irinaios of Jerusalem, the situation of the Catholic Church in Russia and relations between the Catholic Church and the Moscow Patriarchate, Orthodox participation in the World Council of Churches, the Clergy/Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and the proposed new Archdiocesan Charter, developments in SCOBA, the document Reflections on Covenant and Mission produced by the dialogue between the USCCB and the National Council of Synagogues, the election and enthronization of Metropolitan Herman of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), the Joint Declaration on Environmental Ethics signed by the Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch, the visit of a Constantinopolitan delegation to Rome for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul last June, the enthronization of a new Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Missionary Archdiocese in America and Canada, the October meeting of the Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops, and the Byzantine Spirituality Conference that was held in Pittsburgh on October 5.

On November 1 Archbishop Pilarczyk presided over a morning Eucharist for All Saint's Day in the chapel of Saint Paul Seminary. It was attended by the members of the Consultation as well as the seminarians and priests and brothers of the Oblate community.

Some changes in the membership of the Consultation were also announced. Metropolitan Maximos informed the members that Professor Lewis Patsavos had submitted his resignation because of his retirement. Archbishop Pilarczyk welcomed a new Catholic member, Msgr. John Faris, Under Secretary General of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, who is a canonist with special emphasis on Eastern Canon Law. Sr. Donna Geernaert announced that her place would subsequently be taken by Sr. Jean Goulet, CSC, her successor as director of the CCCB's Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs. The members expressed their gratitude to the Sheptytsky Institute and to the Vice-Rector of Saint Paul University, Colin Levangie, OMI, who each graciously provided a reception for the members after the evening sessions.

The next meeting of the Consultation is scheduled to take place from May 27 to 29, 2003, at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York.

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation has been meeting semiannually since it was founded in 1965 under the auspices of the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops official joined the Consultation as a sponsor in 1997. The Consultation works in tandem with the Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops which has been meeting annually since 1981.

In addition to the two co-chairmen, the Orthodox members of the Consultation include Father Thomas FitzGerald (Secretary), Archbishop Peter of New York (OCA), Father Nicholas Apostola, Prof. Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Father Alkiviadis Calivas, Father James Dutko, Prof. John Erickson, Father Alexander Golitzin, Father Emmanuel Gratsias, Dr. Robert Haddad, Father Paul Schnierla, and Father Robert Stephanopoulos. Orthodox staff members are Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, General Secretary of SCOBA and Father Gregory Havrilak of the office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, SCOBA. The additional Catholic members are Father Brian Daley, SJ (secretary), Msgr. Frederick McManus, Prof. Thomas Bird, Father Peter Galadza, Msgr. John D. Faris, Father John Galvin, Sister Jean Goulet, CSC, Father Sidney Griffith, ST, Father John Long, SJ, Father David Petras, Prof. Robin Darling Young, and Father Ronald Roberson, CSP (staff).