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 www.usccb.org/seia/orthodox_index.shtml and the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) website at www.scoba.us/resources/orthodox-catholic.html.
Any time I hear about the Orthodox and Catholic Churches coming together to discuss issues of interest and unity, I get butterflies in my stomach. To think that the two lungs of the Church may actually reunite in my lifetime is something that I think is not only possible of would be such a great outpouring of grace that I am certain most would find it to be a defining moment of their lives.
Over the next couple of days I plan on reading and commenting on the three linked documents above. Keep in mind that the Catholic Churches, those in full communion with the See of Peter and the Orthodox Churches, those with verifiable Apostolic origin, are the only two branches of Christianity that validly retain all seven sacraments, which include the Real Presence of Our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist. Moreover, it is only the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches that can rightly be defined as “churches” unlike Protestant “ecclesial communities” (Dominus Iesus).