U.S. Catholic-Orthodox consultation studies prospects for church reunion

.- Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders in the United States have continued work on a new joint statement on the future of Catholic-Orthodox relations, examining what the two Churches share and the prospects for their reunion.

The draft statement describes the resolution of differences as a matter of urgency, according to a press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation met at Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts from June 1-3. It was co-chaired by Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh and Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans.

Members of the consultation included Catholic and Orthodox clergy, vowed religious and scholars.

The consultation has titled its draft statement “Steps Towards a United Church: A Sketch of an Orthodox-Catholic Vision for the Future.” According to the USCCB, the document briefly outlines the history of differences between the Churches, especially regarding the church role of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope.

It also discusses what the two churches share.

The consultation’s draft reflects on what a reunited Catholic and Orthodox Church might look like and what ecclesiastical structures are needed to help such unity come about. Further, it considers what questions remain if such a reconciliation is to take place.

Work on the draft will continue at the next meeting.

Participants also considered recent events in both Churches, particularly the May 26-27 Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America which took place in New York. The Assembly will replace the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) and is anticipated to become the official Orthodox sponsor of the North American Consultation.

Members of the consultation examined the subjects of primacy and conciliarity in the Church, with emphasis on the theological significance of the Orthodox autocephalous, or self-governing, Churches.

Dr. Robert Haddad, emeritus history professor at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. presented a study titled “Constantinople Over Antioch, 1516-1724: Patriarchal Politics in the Ottoman Era.” Fr. John Erickson, professor of canon law and church history at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York, presented a paper titled “The Autocephalous Church.”

Fr. Joseph Komonchak, professor emeritus of religious studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. presented a Catholic reaction to the papers.

Since its establishment in 1965 the consultation has issued 23 statements on various topics. These texts are available at the SCOBA website and at the USCCB website.

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