“With Hope Towards the Future. Living Together and Common Witness of the Syriac Tradition”

Vienna, November 26-28, 2019


Dear Dr Kloss,

It is with great pleasure that I send cordial greetings to you and to the distinguished participants attending the sixth Pro Oriente Colloquium Syriacum on the topic “With Hope Towards the Future. Living Together and Common Witness of the Syriac Tradition”.

Since 1994, Pro Oriente has endeavored to establish a platform of encounter at the unofficial level for the Churches of the Syriac tradition, promoting ecumenical dialogue and academic exchange on liturgy, theology, history, culture and language. Since 2005 this work has been undertaken through the ‘Forum Syriacum’, which also hosts the ‘Colloquium Syriacum’ at regular intervals.

On the occasion of the sixth Pro Oriente Colloquium Syriacum, which marks also the 25th anniversary of this initiative, I would like to express the deep gratitude of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity for this initiative, truly unique in its kind. It offers a remarkable contribution to the official dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

Indeed, the Forum Syriacum and the Colloquim Syriacum are the only platforms bringing together in an academic way all the Churches of the Syriac tradition. This initiative can create a climate of confidence necessary to understand our diversity from the point of view of unity. As Pope Francis said last year in his greetings to His Holiness Mar Gewargis III, our dialogue shows that “practical and disciplinary differences are not always an obstacle to unity, and that certain differences in theological expression can be considered complementary rather than conflicting” (9 November 2018).

I take this opportunity to thank all members of the Pro Oriente Foundation for their steadfast and generous commitment to promoting this dialogue, especially its President, Dr Alfons Kloss, and Dr Johann Marte, his predecessor for 18 years. I wish to express also my appreciation for the endeavors of the eminent scholars who guide research in the field and promote a culture of dialogue, in particular Professor Dietmar Winkler, Consultor of our Pontifical Council, who has been involved in this initiative since its beginning, as well as Professor Peter Hofrichter, his predecessor.

This sixth Pro Oriente Colloquium Syriacum is dedicated to pastoral issues. After a “harvesting the fruits” reviewing the pastoral agreement already existing, your conference will reflect on case studies of pastoral practice in the Middle East, in India and in Europe, and will then discuss common challenges and opportunities in Syria, India and North America.

These challenges are usually addressed under the term “pastoral ecumenism”. Very often Christian communities in a given locality face the same pastoral and missionary challenges. If there is not already a genuine desire for unity among Christians, such challenges can exacerbate tensions and even promote a spirit of competition among communities. However, when approached with an authentically ecumenical spirit these very challenges become opportunities for Christian unity in pastoral care. It is one of the fields where Christian unity is most assuredly experienced in the lives of believers.

Trusting that this Colloquium will mark a further step towards full communion between the Churches, I assure you of my prayerful best wishes for a fruitful fraternal exchange and academic research.

With cordial greetings in the Lord, I remain

Sincerely yours,


Cardinal Kurt Koch