2nd Phase of Talks Under Way with Ancient Eastern Churches

Had Separated from Rome in 451

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 28, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II officially launched the second phase of ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and ancient Eastern Churches that separated from Rome in 451.

These Churches rejected the conclusions of the Council of Chalcedon, which professed the divine and human natures of Jesus.

The ecumenical dialogue that followed the Second Vatican Council has clarified misunderstandings, seeing that the differences arose more from «terminology» and «culture» adopted «by the various theological schools to express the same argument.»

This much was acknowledged in the 1984 joint declaration signed by John Paul II and the head of the Syro-Orthodox Church, Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas of Antioch.

Present at today’s audience in the Vatican were representatives of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Orthodox Coptic Patriarchate of Egypt, the Syro-Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, the Orthodox Church of Eritrea, and the Syrian Orthodox Church of Malankar.

«Substantial ecumenical progress has already been made between the Catholic Church and the different Eastern Orthodox Churches,» the Holy Father said, when he received the members of a dialogue committee composed of Catholic representatives and members of those Churches.

«Essential clarifications have been reached with regard to traditional controversies about Christology, and this has enabled us to profess together the faith we hold in common,» he added.

«This progress is most encouraging, since it shows us that the path followed is the right one and that we can reasonably hope to discover together the solution to other disputed questions,» the Pope added.

«May your efforts to establish a Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue prove a major step forward toward full communion in truth and charity,» he said.

Most of the Churches’ representatives came from Middle East countries or surrounding areas. The Holy Father invited them to «pray together that this region will be preserved from the threat of war and further violence.»

«May our ecumenical endeavors always be directed to the building up of a ‘civilization of love,’ founded on justice, reconciliation and peace,» he concluded.

The dialogue committee began its meeting Monday at the headquarters of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The meeting, which ends Wednesday, is studying the topics and methods of the second phase of dialogue. To date, theological agreements were reached separately between each one of the Churches and the Catholic Church. The second phase will foster joint dialogue among all the Churches in a single commission.

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