Twentieth meeting of Catholic-Oriental Orthodox dialogue

26 Jan 2024

The twentieth meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches took place in Rome from January 22 to 26, 2024, hosted by the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity. It was chaired jointly by His Eminence Cardinal Kurt Koch, Prefect of the DPCU, and by His Grace Bishop Kyrillos, Coptic Orthodox Auxiliary Bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles, California, USA. This meeting marked the twentieth anniversary of the Commission, the first meeting of which was held in Cairo, Egypt, from January 27 to 30, 2004.

To mark this anniversary, an Academic Act was held on Tuesday January 23 at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, during which a commemorative book was presented. On the evening of Thursday, January 25, the members attended the Vespers Service at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls on the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle in conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. On Friday, 26 January, Pope Francis received the members of the Commission in private audience. To celebrate the anniversary of the Commission, the annual Study Visit for young priests and monks, organized for the fourth time in Rome, partially coincided this year with the meeting of the Commission. The young priests and monks attended as observers one of the sessions of the dialogue.

In keeping with the theme “Aspects of Mariology: the Holy Virgin Mary in the Teaching and the Life of the Church”, started in 2022, various papers on this topic were presented and discussed, in particular on the original sin, the meaning of ‘Dogma’ and the ‘Hierarchy of truths’, on the Immaculate Conception and Assumption/Dormition.

As outlined in the Report, the members of the commission “while rejoicing that our Churches share a common devotion to the Mother of God and a common liturgical and spiritual heritage related to her veneration, […] recognized that Mariology lies at the intersection of many controversial issues concerning soteriology, anthropology and ecclesiology that require in-depth common study and discussion, especially concerning the Dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and of the Assumption.”

The Joint Commission recommended that the 20th anniversary may be an opportunity for an evaluation of its documents and a reflection on its methodology in order to see possible improvements for the next steps of the dialogue. For this purpose, family coordinating committees on both sides will be appointed and prepare draft suggestions, after consultation with their respective authorities. These suggestions will then be discussed by a Joint Coordinating committee.

The last meeting of the Commission took place at the Logos Center of the Saint Bishoy Monastery, Egypt, from 31 January – 4 February 2023, hosted by the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Founded in 2003, the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches has already published three documents, the first in 2009 on the “Nature, Constitution and Mission of the Church”, the second in 2015 on “The Exercise of Communion in the Life of the Early Church and its Implications for Our Search for Communion Today”, and the third in 2022 on “The Sacraments in the Life of the Church.”