North American Orthodox and Catholic Theologians Respond to the Ravenna Document

Thursday, November 05 2009
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(CCCB-Ottawa)… The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) acknowledged today the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation joint response on ecclesiological issues at the core of Catholic-Orthodox relations: “A Common Response to the Ravenna Document”, a statement finalized at the last meeting of the Consultation. The “Ravenna Document” was issued in 2007 by the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

The North American dialogue commentary on the “Ravenna Document” – named after the Italian city where it was released - was adopted at the Consultation’s 77th meeting held in Saint Paul’s College in Washington, DC this past October.

“The Canadian Conference of Catholics Bishops welcomes the Consultation’s joint response,” said Bishop Pierre Morissette, President of the CCCB.

The Common Response examined the Ravenna Document’s treatment of communion, conciliarity and authority at the three levels within the Church:  the local level (diocese), the regional level (Episcopal conferences, metropolitanates and patriarchates) and the universal level.

The next meeting of the North American Dialogue is scheduled to take place at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, June 1 to 3, 2010.

The full title of the Ravenna Document is “Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church:  Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority.”  It is available on the Vatican website at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/ch_orthodox_docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20071013_documento-ravenna_en.html and on the website of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople at  http://www.ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=en&id=848&tla=en


Backgrounder

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation has finalized a joint response to the international dialogue’s 2007 “Ravenna Document.”  This took place at the Consultation’s 77th meeting, held at Saint Paul’s College in Washington, DC, from October 22 to 24.  It was presided over by Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh and Roman Catholic Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans.

This was Archbishop Aymond’s first meeting as the Catholic Co-Chairman of the Consultation. He was named last summer to succeed Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk in this role by Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.  Archbishop Aymond had been with His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in New Orleans the day before he came to Washington, and extended the Patriarch’s warm greetings to the Consultation.  The members attended the Eucharist that Archbishop Aymond celebrated in the college chapel on the morning of October 23.

Most of the meeting was devoted to the details of finalizing the Common Response, the full text of which is found below.  Overall the North American dialogue welcomed the document, and viewed its adoption as “an encouraging sign that the international dialogue, which has faced significant difficulties in the recent past, has been able to resume its study of ecclesiology and present an approved statement on that important topic.”  The Common Response then examines the Ravenna Document’s treatment of conciliarity and authority at three levels within the Church:  the local level (diocese), the regional level (Episcopal conferences, metropolitanates and patriarchates) and the universal level.  It also takes exception to the sole footnote in the Ravenna document, and argues that the representations of both the Orthodox and Catholic understandings of the Church are inaccurate.

At this meeting the members also continued work on the theme of primacies and conciliarity in the Church.  They examined a first draft of a proposed agreed statement on this question, entitled “Steps Towards a United Church:  A Sketch of an Orthodox-Catholic Vision for the Future.”  Still in its preliminary stages, the text will be revised and considered again at the next meeting of the dialogue.  To enhance the consultation’s examination of this theme, Rev. John Erickson presented a paper entitled “Primacy and Conciliarity at the Regional Level,” and Rev. Joseph Komonchak spoke on the analysis of the Council of Sardica (343 AD) by the noted French Dominican theologian Hervé Legrand.

As usual, one session of the meeting was devoted to a sharing of information about major events in the lives of our churches.  The topics discussed included the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference and its implications for Orthodoxy in North America, the papal encyclical Caritas in Veritate, the nomination of a new United States Ambassador to the Holy See, relations between the two Romanian Orthodox jurisdictions in North America, the recently announced creation of personal ordinariates for former Anglicans within the Catholic Church, and the situation of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese.

The next meeting of the dialogue is scheduled to take place at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, from June 1 to 3, 2010.

In addition to the co-chairs, the Consultation include Orthodox representatives Father Thomas FitzGerald (Secretary), Father Nicholas Apostola, Father John Erickson, Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Ph.D., Father James Dutko, Paul Meyendorff, Ph.D., Father Alexander Golitzin, Robert Haddad, Ph.D., Father Robert Stephanopoulos, Father Theodore Pulcini, and Father Mark Arey, General Secretary of SCOBA (staff).

Catholic members are Jesuit Father Brian Daley (Secretary), Thomas Bird, Ph.D., Sylvain Destrempes, Ph.D. and Father Peter Galadza, Chorbishop John D. Faris, Father John Galvin, Father Sidney Griffith, Father Joseph Komonchak, Father Paul McPartlan, Father David Petras, Sister Susan K. Wood, Vito Nicastro, Ph.D., and Paulist Father Ronald Roberson, who serves as staff.

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation is sponsored jointly by the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) (which has sent two delegates for the past decade). Since its establishment in 1965, the Consultation has now issued 23 agreed statements on various topics. All these texts are now available on the USCCB Website at http://www.usccb.org/seia/orthodox_index.shtml and the SCOBA website at http://www.scoba.us/resources/orthodox-catholic.html

Last Updated on Monday, November 09 2009