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The fiftieth anniversary of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation was held at St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Cathedral and Assumption College in Worcester, MA on October 22-24, 2015.
The Theological Consultation was formally established in 1965 by the bishops of the Orthodox and Catholic churches in the United States. Under the leadership of Archbishop Iakovos and Catholic Bishop Bernard Flanagan of Worcester the first meeting took place there on September 9, 1965.
This meeting marked the beginning of the first formal dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church since the fifteenth century. The meeting occurred after the historic encounter of Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem in 1964, and prior to the Lifting of the Anathemas of 1054 by Rome and Constantinople in 1965. The Consultation reflects the ecumenical perspectives of the Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church (1962-1965) and the Pan-Orthodox Conferences (1961-1968).
For fifty years, the theologians of both churches have met regularly to discuss points of difference and points of agreement. The Consultation has produced twenty-eight Agreed Statements on topics such as the Holy Eucharist, Mixed Marriages, the Filioque as well as Primacy and Conciliarity. More recently in 2010, the Consultation published “Steps Towards a Reunited Church: A Sketch for an Orthodox-Catholic Vision for the Future.”
The Consultation is sponsored by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Metropolitan Methodios of Boston presided at the anniversary observance which began with the celebration of Great Vespers at St. Spyridon Cathedral.
The service was led by Fr. Dimitrios Moraitis and Deacon Andrew Giourelis. The St. Romanos Melodist Choir of Hellenic College-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology chanted under the direction of Prof. Grammenos Karanos.
Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin on Indianapolis, chair of the Catholic delegation, offered the homily.
At the dinner that followed, Metropolitan Methodios, the Orthodox chairman of the Consultation, welcomed the participants and the many invited guests. Bishop Robert MacManus of Worcester offered the invocation.
Metropolitan Methodios read the Greeting from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who commended the work of the Consultation.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said to the members of the Consultation: ‘With scholarly insight, pastoral sensitivity and fervent prayer, you have examined and addressed the critical issues which have estranged our Churches. You have advanced the relationship between our Churches and our common witness in the world in the name of Christ. You have responded faithfully to the prayer of the Lord for the unity of his followers (John 17:21)…Truly, the fruits of the Consultation are found in its twenty-eight agreed statements. For five decades, these statements and related studies have contributed greatly to mutual understanding, theological renewal, and the resolution of our historic differences.’
Following the dinner, presentations were given by two Consultation members. Prof. Thomas Bird of Queens College and Fr. Robert Stephanopoulos, dean emeritus of Holy Trinity Cathedral in New York spoke about the early years of the dialogue.
The Consultation also sponsored a meeting of Orthodox and Catholic students at Assumption College in Worcester on October 23. Presentations on the dialogue were made by Prof. Paul Meyendorff of St. Vladimir Orthodox Theological School and Fr. Paul McPartlan of The Catholic University. The session was moderated by Prof. Despina Prassas of Providence College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.
At this anniversary meeting, the Consultation produced a statement entitled: “The Love of Christ Compels Us (2 Cor. 5:13): Fifty Years of Theological Dialogue.” “We are grateful to our Lord,” the theologians said, “that he has given to us this special blessing to contribute to the restoration of the unity of our churches. We pledge that we will continue to examine the issues that still divide our churches, trusting in the guidance of the Spirit to show us that these differences are not insurmountable. We look forward to the blessed day when we can celebrate the Eucharist together.”
Fr. Thomas FitzGerald, Professor of Church History at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, is the executive secretary of the Orthodox-Catholic Consultation.
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