Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops Convenes

The Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops met on May 22-24, 2016 at the Saint Methodios Faith and Heritage Center in Contoocook, NH.

The Joint Committee was established in 1981 by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America, now the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States, and by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Joint Committee is the first formal gathering of Orthodox and Catholic bishops blessed and supported by both churches, and is co-chaired by His Eminence Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston. 

The purpose of the Joint Committee is to contribute to the restoration of full communion between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. In their mission statement, the bishops said that they will address together topics related to the pastoral life and witness of the churches. Among the common statements that the Joint Committee has issued, include: Ordination (1988), Pastoral Statement on Orthodox/Roman Catholic Marriages (1990), and On Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue at the Dawn of the New Millennium (2000).

The bishops received a summary of the work of the Joint Committee by Fr. Ron Roberson of the USCCCB and on the work of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation by Fr. Brian Daley of Notre Dame University. Moreover, the Reverend Archdeacon John Chryssavgis of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America presented a summary and a reflection on the upcoming Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church.

The Hierarchs expressed their hopes and prayers for the Holy and Great Council, which will be convened by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the island of Crete from June 16-27, 2016. Recognizing the importance of the Holy and Great Council for the common Christian witness of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the Joint Committee expressed its hopes “that unity among the local autocephalous Orthodox Churches will greatly benefit the quest for unity and communion between Catholics and Orthodox.”

The Joint Committee also addressed the ongoing and worsening humanitarian crisis in the Middle East. The bishops acknowledged the escalation of violence against Christians, which has been described by the US Congress as genocide. Moreover, the bishops expressed their gratitude to those countries “that have embraced the countless refugees and migrants during this time.” They also encouraged all people of faith to entreat the Lord God, Who is not a God of disorder, but of Peace (1 Cor. 14:33), to fill those who are afflicted with His joy and peace.

For more information about the Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops, including its current membership, see: USCCB.org and AssemblyofBishops.org 

The complete texts of the Joint Committee’s Statements can be found below and as attachments.

The Mission of the Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops

In response to our Lord’s prayer to His Father regarding His disciples “that they be one as you and I are one” (John 17:22), the Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops was established in 1981 by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America, now the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States, and by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This committee was the first formal gathering of Orthodox and Catholic bishops blessed and supported by both churches.

The committee will contribute to the restoration of full communion between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, which had existed for the first one thousand years of Christianity, by:

• providing opportunities for the bishops to discuss together issues related to the pastoral life and witness of the churches;

• publishing statements of common concern which address issues of significance for our churches and our society;

• encouraging members of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, both clergy and laity, to contribute to the restoration of full communion through prayer, theological reflection, and common witness in the society.

The committee will consider the pastoral implications of the work of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation which was established in 1965 and the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church which was established in 1979.

Lastly, the committee will forward to the Executive Committee of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States and to the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops the result of its work for review and appropriate response.

Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops in the United States Express Wishes and Prayers for the Holy & Great Council

During their meeting, the members of the Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops discussed the six preparatory documents on the agenda of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. The members of the Committee expressed their joy and hope at the convening of this historic event that will take place in Crete, during the feast of Pentecost, which the Orthodox Church celebrates this year on June 19th. The Committee highlighted the pastoral dimension of the preparatory documents regarding the role and life of Christians in today’s world. We pray wholeheartedly for the success of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, and are confident that unity among the local autocephalous Orthodox Churches will greatly benefit the quest for unity and communion between Catholics and Orthodox.

 

Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops Express Prayers for Middle East Humanitarian Crisis

We, the members of the Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops, established in 1981, discussed the escalating humanitarian crisis in the Middle East during our meeting held on May 22-24. This blessed region is both the cradle of ancient civilizations and the sacred homeland of Christianity for over two millennia. Moreover, the peoples of these lands, each with their diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, have by and large lived as good neighbors and with fraternal love and respect. 

In concert with Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow and all Russia, and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and all Greece, we call the attention of the world to this grave humanitarian crisis and plead for its resolution. Aid must be assured to the afflicted people seeking safety in neighboring lands. 

The escalation of violence against Christians has recently been described by the US Congress as genocide. Along these lines, we remind the world that such acts of violence are not limited to Christians, but are experienced by the numerous vulnerable ethnic and religious communities in the region. 

We call upon the international community to draw courage from the Gospel and serve as facilitators of reconciliation and peace by using diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means to reestablish the conditions for harmonious coexistence among people. This process should also encourage the safe return of those who were uprooted from their homes and forced into exile due to violence. We express our gratitude to those countries that have embraced the countless refugees and migrants during this time, and urge other countries to emulate their example. 

Recognizing that human efforts alone cannot fully ensure the end of violence and the promotion of peace in the world, we encourage all people of faith to entreat the Lord God, Who is not a God of disorder, but of Peace (1 Cor. 14:33), to fill with His joy and peace those who are afflicted, as we continue to trust in Him (Rom 15:13).