Steps Being Taken to Overcome an Ancient Schism

Relaunching of Dialogue with Early Churches That Split After Chalcedon

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 27, 2003 ( Rome is witnessing a new ecumenical development aimed at overcoming a 1,500-year-old schism.

Representatives of the early Eastern Churches, separated both from Rome as well as from the Byzantine Orthodox Churches during the Council of Chalcedon, in 451, are in the Vatican through Wednesday, to relaunch a second phase of dialogue leading toward full unity.

In the first phase of dialogue, John Paul II and these Christian Churches signed important joint declarations on the nature of Christ, to overcome one of the principal reasons for the schism that arose when these Churches rejected the conclusions of Chalcedon, which defined the divine and human nature of Christ.

Given the alleged Monophysitism, past years of dialogue with Rome have clarified that the schism originated over problems of communication and language in understanding Christological faith. (Monophysitism held that Christ had only one nature.)

The clarification is demonstrated, for example, in the joint declaration signed by John Paul II and the Armenian Catholicos Karekin I in 1996 in which both professed that «Christ is the Word of God made flesh, perfect God in his divinity, perfect man in his humanity.»

In addition to the Armenian Apostolic Church, these Churches comprise the Orthodox Coptic Patriarchate of Egypt, the Syro-Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, the Orthodox Church of Eritrea, and the Syro-Orthodox Church of Malankar.

A statement issued today by the Vatican Press Office said the meetings with the representatives of these Churches will take place at the headquarters of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

«The first meeting is preparatory in character and hopes to establish the topics and methods of the future dialogue,» the document clarifies.

Members of the committee responsible for preparing the course of this dialogue will have a papal audience Tuesday.

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