Catholics, Orthodox Examine Means of Expressing Authority, Sacramental Nature of The Church

June 9, 2008 By Public Affairs Office
WASHINGTON—The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation examined how the two church bodies understand ecclesial authority and the sacramental nature of the Church at their 74th meeting at Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, from June 2 to 4. Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati and Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh chaired the meeting.

At the first theological session, Father Paul McPartlan of The Catholic University of America analyzed the October 2007 document of the international Orthodox-Catholic theological dialogue, "Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority." Also known as "The Ravenna Document," this text examines the canonical practices and structures that shape the community (koinonia) of the Church at the local, regional and world-wide levels. Father McPartlan is himself a member of the international dialogue. A Catholic reaction to the document was then presented by Father John Galvin and an Orthodox reaction by Robert Haddad, Ph.D.

At the second session, Father Joseph Komonchak, from Catholic University, presented a select bibliography on synodality and commented on a number of the sources. Jesuit Father Brian Daley of the University of Notre Dame, presented an overview and commentary of the Cyprus Agreed Statement, the 2006 document of the Anglican-Orthodox theological dialogue, titled "The Church of the Triune God." This was followed by brief presentations by Father David Petras and Father McPartlan on how the two churches might function were there reestablishment of full communion.

At the third session, Metropolitan Maximos presented the paper, "Will the Ecclesiology of Cardinal Ratzinger Influence the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI?" A discussion of the Consultation's efforts exploring primacy and synodality so far followed. The discussion continued at the fourth session.

While at Holy Cross, the members attended Vespers Monday evening and a celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the chapel Tuesday morning, presided over by Metropolitan Maximos.

Father John Erickson of Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, who had been an Orthodox member before he was named seminary dean in 2002, was welcomed back to the Consultation. He takes the place of Dr. John Barnet, also of Saint Vladimir's Seminary. The next meeting is slated for October 23-25, in Montreal, Quebec. It will be sponsored by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has been an official participant in the North American Consultation since 1997.

In addition to the co-chairs, the Consultation include Orthodox representatives Father Thomas FitzGerald (Secretary), Father Nicholas Apostola, Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Ph.D., Father James Dutko, Paul Meyendorff, Ph.D., Father Alexander Golitzin, Robert Haddad, Ph.D., Father Paul Schnierla, Father Robert Stephanopoulos, Father John Erickson, Father Theodore Pulcini, and Father Mark Arey, General Secretary of SCOBA (staff).

The additional Catholic members are Jesuit Father Brian Daley (Secretary), Thomas Bird, Ph.D., Holy Cross Father Lucien Coutu, Father Peter Galadza, Chorbishop John D. Faris, Father John Galvin, Father Sidney Griffith, Father Joseph Komonchak, Father Paul McPartlan, Father David Petras, Sister Susan K. Wood, Vito Nicastro, Ph.D., and Paulist Father Ronald Roberson, who serves as staff.

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation is sponsored jointly by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Since its establishment in 1965, the Consultation has issued 22 agreed statements on various topics. All these texts are now available on the USCCB Website at the SCOBA website at