Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue Discusses Roles of Laity, Bishops’ Conferences at Its 80th Meeting

June 21, 2011 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation held its 80th meeting at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in Crestwood, New York, June 6-8. The members reviewed major events in the lives of their churches, and heard presentations on the role of the laity in the Church and intermediate levels of ecclesial authority.

Thomas Bird, Ph.D., of Queens College, City University of New York, Flushing, New York, gave a presentation on “The Role of the Laity in the Catholic Church: Points for Reflection.” Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Ph.D., of Brown University presented on “Some Reflections on the Laity in Ancient Syriac Christianity.” Father Nicholas Apostola of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas gave a presentation on the role of the laity in the Church from an Orthodox perspective.

On the question of regional structures of Church authority, Orthodox members reported on the second meeting of the new Orthodox Episcopal Assembly, which took place in Chicago in May. Father Joseph Komonchak, professor emeritus of religious studies at The Catholic University of America (CUA), delivered a paper on bishops’ conferences in the Catholic Church. This included an analysis of Pope John Paul II’s 1998 Apostolic Letter Apostolos Suos on the theological and juridical nature of episcopal conferences. The members decided to further investigate these areas.

They also discussed two reports released at the end of their last meeting on finding a common way to determine the date of Easter and steps that could be taken to reunite the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The next two meetings were scheduled for October 27-29, 2011, and June 5 to 7, 2012.

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation is chaired jointly by Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans and Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh. Due to the Metropolitan’s absence because of illness, Rev. Dr. Thomas FitzGerald, dean of the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, co-chaired this meeting on his behalf.

Since its establishment in 1965, the North American Consultation has issued 25 agreed statements, which are available at http://www.usccb.org/about/ecumenical-and-interreligious-affairs/ and the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) website at www.scoba.us/resources/orthodox-catholic.html.

Additional Orthodox members include Father John Erickson, former dean and professor of canon law and church history at Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York; Father James Dutko, pastor of St. Michael’s Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church in Binghamton, New York; Paul Meyendorff, Ph.D., Alexander Schmemann professor of liturgical theology and editor of Saint Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, Crestwood, New York; Father Alexander Golitzin, professor of theology at Marquette University, Milwaukee; Robert Haddad, Ph.D., Sophia Smith professor emeritus of history at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts; Father Robert Stephanopoulos, pastor emeritus of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, New York; Father Theodore Pulcini, associate professor of religion at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania; and Father Mark Arey, general secretary of SCOBA, New York, (staff). Father Patrick Viscuso, Ph.D., of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America was a new Orthodox member at this meeting.

Additional Catholic members are Jesuit Father Brian Daley (secretary), Catherine F. Huisking professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame; Sylvain Destrempes, Ph.D., faculty of the Grand Seminaire in Montreal; Father Peter Galadza, Kule Family professor of
liturgy at the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, Ottawa; Chorbishop John D. Faris, pastor of St. Louis Gonzaga Maronite Church, Utica, New York; Father John Galvin, professor of Systematic Theology, CUA; Father Sidney Griffith, professor in the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures, CUA; Monsignor Paul McPartlan, Carl J. Peter professor of systematic theology and ecumenism at CUA; Father David Petras, spiritual director and professor of liturgy at the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Pittsburgh; Sister of Charity of Leavenworth Susan K. Wood, professor and chair of the Department of Theology at Marquette; Vito Nicastro, Ph.D., associate director of the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Archdiocese of Boston; and Paulist Father Ronald Roberson, Ph.D., associate director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, staff.
Keywords: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, dialogue, North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, laity, ecclesial authority, episcopal conferences, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, SCOBA