A Council of the Past Holds Hope for Future

Theologically, Catholics and Orthodox Moving Closer

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ROME, MAR. 13, 2001 (Zenit.org).- In a world where Christians are still divided, a council held 1,550 years ago gives clues for unity.

This was the conclusion of a congress, organized by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, last Friday and Saturday, which studied the Council of Chalcedon, held in 451.

The meeting brought together theologians of Eastern and Western Europe to concentrate on the formulation of Christ´s very identity, expressed in the hypostatic union of his two natures, the human and divine. The definition, coined by Chalcedon, caused the schism with the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Archbishop Mesrob K. Krikorian, representative of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and legate for Central Europe, told ZENIT: “We are united by the same faith” and, in fact, “between the Church of Rome and the Oriental Orthodox Churches many problems have been resolved.”

There are 8 million Armenians in the world, the vast majority Apostolic Christians; a small minority is Catholic.

Archbishop Krikorian explained that “from the doctrinal point of view, especially after the Second Vatican Council, the theological debates have given good results.” In particular, he mentioned a meeting organized in Vienna, Austria, in 1971 by the “Pro Oriente” Ecumenical Foundation, which for the first time reached consensus among Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic theologians on the person of Christ. The agreement was later blessed by the Churches´ heads.

“After that meeting, other deliberations were held [in 1973, 1976, 1978, 1988] which addressed arguments such as the abolition of mutual excommunications, and the authority and primacy of the Pope,” the Armenian archbishop added.

“Thus, 1,500 years after the Council of Chalcedon, the Christological controversy between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches has been leveled, and a reconciliation in benefit of the peoples and the Church of Christ has finally been reached,” the Armenian representative clarified.

Indeed, the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church surmounted their differences officially on these theological questions in 1996 in Rome, when Armenian Patriarch Karekin I and John Paul II signed a joint declaration on the nature of Christ.

As regards the primacy of the Pope, Archbishop Krikorian underlined that “following John Paul II´s encyclical ´Ut Unum Sint,´ the Churches are invited to find a solution. The first steps have been taken and I now see a way in collegiality. We, the Orientals, see the Roman Pope as ´Primus inter pares,´ but for decisions that affect our life, especially at the administrative level, we ask for specific solutions at the collegial level.”

The Armenian archbishop also told ZENIT: “I came last November to Rome, when John Paul II received Karekin II, supreme patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and I had an optimum impression. We had the feeling that we are not discriminated against. The patriarch and archbishops of our Church were well received and the meetings were useful. In a word, I am increasingly convinced that we are united in the faith.”

The Pope referred to the great dispute between Armenians and Catholics in his recent apostolic letter “Novo Millennio Ineunte.” “We know that our concepts and our words are limited,” he writes in No. 22. “The formula, though always human, is nonetheless carefully measured in its doctrinal content, and it enables us, albeit with trepidation, to gaze in some way into the depths of the mystery. Yes, Jesus is true God and true man!”

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