Pope calls for dialogue of life with Oriental Orthodox Churches

Pope Francis meets with members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and Oriental Orthodox Churches

Jun 23, 2022

Pope meeting the members of the Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Church. (Vatican Media)


By Lisa Zengarini
Pope Francis on Thursday received in audience the members of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

In his address, the pope thanked the Commission for its precious work which has allowed substantial progress in the dialogue process towards a full communion.

He greeted, in particular, its latest achievements  in the discussion on the Sacraments which, he said, "could mark a new step forward" towards this goal.

Ecumenism is essentially baptismal
In this regard, Pope Francis shared his reflections on three points. The first point he highlighted is that ecumenism is essentially baptismal: “It is in Baptism that the foundation of communion between Christians and the yearning for full visible unity is found”, Pope Francis said.

Deepening pastoral ecumenism
In the second place, Pope Francis remarked that the broad consensus reached by the Commission not only on Baptism, but also on the other Sacraments, should encourage Catholic and Oriental Orthodox Churches to deepen pastoral ecumenism.

Noting that many pastoral agreements have already been signed over the past decades with some Eastern Orthodox Churches, which allow the faithful to participate in the Sacraments, even without being in full communion, Pope Francis expressed hope that "the Holy Spirit may inspire ways to continue walking along this path". This path, he emphasized, focuses on  “the good of God's people and not on  moral, theological or ideological distinctions”.

Ecumenism of life
The pope went on to highlight that ecumenism already exists as a primarily local reality, not only in the Middle East, but also in Western countries where Christians from this  region  have emigrated , in the form of “ecumenism of life”.

“Many faithful - I am thinking, above all ,of those in the Middle East, but also of those who emigrated to the West - already experience the ecumenism of life in the daily life of their families, of work, of everyday visits. And they often experience together the ecumenism of suffering, in common witness to the name of Christ, sometimes even at the cost of their lives.”

Pope Francis, therefore, said that “theological ecumenism should reflect not only on the dogmatic differences that arose in the past, but also on the current experience of our faithful.

“The dialogue on doctrine could theologically adapt to the dialogue of life that develops in the local and daily relationships of our Churches, which constitute a real theological place.”


Walking together and involving the younger generations
To increase a greater fraternal knowledge, the pope  further emphasized the importance of involving the younger generations, active in local communities, “so that the dialogue on doctrine proceeds together with the dialogue of life”.

[ The ecumenism of walking together is done by walking, not only with ideas ]

Taking cue from the theme of the next phase of discussion in the Commission, which  will focus on the Virgin Mary in the teaching and life of the Church, Pope Francis concluded his address with the words of the ancient prayer to the Mother of Goid invoking her protection.

The Commission
The International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, was established in January 2003, by a joint initiative of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the authorities of the Coptic Orthodox Church; the Syriac Orthodox Church; the Armenian Apostolic Church, represented by the two Catholicossates of Etchmiadzin and Cilicia, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church; the Eritrean Orthodox Church; and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.--Vatican News

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