Greetings to the International Academic Conference
“Synodality in Oriental Orthodox Church Traditions”
Pontifical University St. Thomas Aquinas
Rome, 25 November 2022
Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, Your Graces, dear Sisters,
dear Father Rector, dear Professors, dear students
I am pleased to greet all of you for this last part of the International Ecumenical Conference “Listening to the East”, on synodality in Oriental Orthodox Church Traditions. Three weeks ago, we had the opportunity to listen to the Eastern Orthodox synodal tradition, regarding communion, participation, and mission.
While the Eastern Orthodox ecclesiology is quite well-known in Catholic theological circles, we cannot say the same about the Oriental Orthodox approaches. As far as I know, this conference is the first ecumenical conference on synodality in the Oriental Orthodox traditions. Indeed, we know very little about the understanding and practices of synodality in the Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian and Malankara Orthodox traditions, as well as about their interactions.
Contrary to those who think that synodality is a new ecclesial reality, the experience of the Oriental Orthodox Churches demonstrates that synodality has been at the core of the ecclesial life of these venerable Churches through the centuries. Furthermore, this synodal life has been preserved even in difficult historical circumstances faced by them in different contexts and periods. We can say that it is precisely this synodal life which helped the Oriental Orthodox Churches to preserve themselves, to flourish, and to be witness to the Gospel.
The Catholic Church is an ancient Church too and is also present in challenging context as yours. Yet Catholics are eager to listen to you in the conviction that your synodal experience is also a gift of the Holy Spirit for them. As Pope Francis affirmed: “If we really believe in the abundantly free working of the Holy Spirit, we can learn so much from one another! […] Through an exchange of gifts, the Spirit can lead us ever more fully into truth and goodness”. I am sure that this conference will contribute significantly to this exchange of gifts.
In expressing my best wishes for this thrid part of the symposium, I would like to express once again my deep appreciation to the Pro Oriente Foundation and the Institute for Ecumenical Studies of the Angelicum for this academic initiative at the service of the whole Church, and my gratitude for the close collaboration with the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, represented here by Sister Nathalie Becquart, Undersecretary.
May the Lord, by the intercession of Saint Catherine of Alexandria we commemorate today, bless abundantly all of you and help us to continue our “walking together” towards full communion.