VATICAN CITY, FEB. 6, 2004 (Zenit.org).- A recent meeting in Egypt aimed to help overcome divisions between the ancient Churches of the East and Rome, separated since the first millennium.
The first meeting of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Churches took place in Cairo from Jan. 27-30.
The meeting was hosted by Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Shenouda III of Alexandria and the See of St. Mark. It was presided over by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Metropolitan Amba Bishoy of Damiette, general secretary of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
In their opening speeches, Cardinal Kasper and Metropolitan Bishoy underscored the importance of the meeting which marks the beginning of new official theological dialogue between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches as a family, explained a statement issued in Rome by the Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
The ancient Churches of the East (also called Orthodox) are the Churches which remained outside the influence of the Roman Empire and developed their own specific traditions in theological and ecclesiastical matters: the Copts, the Syrian Orthodox, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, and the Malankara Church.
In the first part of the meeting the many studies and activities of the past 30 years were examined.
Later, discussion was opened up on the unofficial consultations and official dialogue held between the various Churches.
A paper, jointly sponsored by the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference and the standing conference of Eastern Orthodox Churches in the United States, was presented on various aspects of their dialogue.
The next gathering, on “Church as Communion,” is scheduled for Jan. 25-30, 2005. Cardinal Kasper extended an invitation to have the meeting held in Rome.