Catholics, Orthodox Examine 'Ravenna Document' Related to Authority, Sacramental Nature of the Church

November 7, 2008 By Public Affairs Office
WASHINGTON—The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation examined the international dialogue's "Ravenna Document" and continued its study of primacies and synodality in the Church at its 75th meeting, October 23-25, at the Manoir d'Youville in Chateauguay, Quebec. The meeting was chaired jointly by Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati and Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh.

At the meeting the Consultation continued to examine the most recent document of the international Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, "Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority," also known as the Ravenna Document. An analysis of the text from an Orthodox perspective was provided by Father John Erickson of St. Vladimir's Seminary and from a Catholic perspective by Sister Susan K. Wood, a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth, from Marquette University. The Consultation plans to issue its own reaction to the Ravenna Document.

The Consultation also heard presentations related to its ongoing study of primacies and synodality/conciliarity in the Church. Father Peter Galadza, the Kule Family Professor of Liturgy at the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies in the Faculty of Theology, Saint Paul University, Ottawa, offered a brief paper entitled "Elements of a Vision for the Effective Synthesis of Universal Primacy and Conciliarity." Father Joseph Komonchak of The Catholic University of America offered a paper titled, "On the Priority of the Universal Church: Analysis and Questions," and also drew elements from an earlier article he wrote, "The Local Church and the Church Catholic: The Contemporary Theological Problematic," that appeared inThe Jurist52 (1992) 416-447. Father Thomas FitzGerald reflected on the ecclesiological significance of the recent gathering of the primates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul (October 10-12), based on the Address of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Primates' October 12 message.

The Consultation also discussed key events in their churches, including the relations between the two Romanian Orthodox jurisdictions in North America, the withdrawal of the Jerusalem Patriarchate from North America, the recent Synod of Bishops in Rome in which Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew participated, the situation in the Orthodox Church in America, the Clergy-Laity Conference of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the upcoming plenary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the recent plenary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). In addition, Father Paul McPartlan reported on the meeting of the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church on Crete September 27-October 4.

Jonas Abromaitis, Coordinator of the CCCB's Bureau for Ecclesial Relations and Doctrine, welcomed the group in the name of Bishop Martin Veillette, newly-appointed Chairman of the Commission for Christian Unity, and Bishop John Boissonneau, outgoing Chair, and Members of the Commission. The CCCB, which has officially participated in the consultation since 1997, hosts a meeting in Canada every five years.

Members welcomed a new Canadian Catholic member of the dialogue, Sylvain Destrempes, Ph.D., the CCCB's Senior Theological Advisor and Secretary to the Commission for Doctrine.

In addition to the co-chairs, the Consultation include Orthodox representatives Father FitzGerald (Secretary), Father Nicholas Apostola, Father Erickson, 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 Theodore Pulcini, and Father Mark Arey, General Secretary of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) and staff.

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

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation is sponsored by 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. These texts are available on the USCCB Website at the SCOBA Website at