North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation Meets in Washington, DC

—The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation continued its reflection on primacies and conciliarity in our churches when it met at St. Paul’s College in Washington, DC, from October 21 to 23, 2004. The meeting, the 67th since the Consultation was founded in 1965, was co-chaired by Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati and Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh.

The session began with an update on the Consultation’s Agreed Statement, “The Filioque: A Church-Dividing Issue?” that was released one year ago. A Spanish translation has just been finished and posted on the USCCB and SCOBA websites. In addition, the members decided to introduce a modification in the middle of the tenth paragraph of the document regarding the reference to the work of Hilary of Poitiers. The sentence will now read: “Hilary of Poitiers, in the mid-fourth century, in the same work speaks of the Spirit as ‘coming forth from the Father’ and being ‘sent by the Son’ (12:55); as being ‘from the Father through the Son’ (12:56); and as ‘having the Father and the Son as his source’ (2.29).” This modification was accepted as a friendly amendment that does not change the meaning of the text but increases the clarity and accuracy of the reference to Hilary’s position.

The Consultation heard a number of presentations in view of its study of conciliarity and primacies in the Church. Fr. Brian Daley, SJ, offered an analysis of the contents of Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical “Ut Unum Sint”. Metropolitan Maximos read his paper examining the theology of John Zizioulas, now the Metropolitan of Pergamon, entitled “The Unity of the Church: An Orthodox Perspective.” Fr. Alexander Golitzin offered his own reflections on Zizioulas’ ecclesiology, and Fr. Ronald Roberson, CSP, presented a brief paper on a Romanian Orthodox theologian entitled, “Dumitru Staniloae on Primacy and Conciliarity.” Fr. John Long, SJ, gave an overview of the recent book by John L. Allen, Jr., “All the Pope’s Men: The Inside Story of How the Vatican Really Thinks.”

The Consultation also devoted one session to major events in the lives of the two churches and recent developments in Orthodox-Catholic relations. Topics included the resolution of the dispute between the Church of Greece and the Ecumenical Patriarchate; the “Christian Churches Together in the USA” initiative; Foundation for Faith and Order; Developments in SCOBA; the prospect of a Ukrainian Greek Catholic Patriarchate; the 2004 Clergy-Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese; the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch to Rome in June 2004; the establishment of the “St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group at the Johann-Adam Muhler Institute in Paderborn, Germany; the return of the Icon of the Mother of God of Kazan to Moscow; the death of Patriarch Petros VII of Alexandria and All Africa and the election of Patriarch Theodoros II; and the very recent decision of the Orthodox Church of Greece to restore the order of deaconesses.

Archbishop Pilarczyk welcomed a new Catholic member of the Consultation, Fr. Joseph Komonchak of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington. Fr. Komonchak has extensive background in 19th and 20th century Roman Catholic ecclesiology which should be particularly useful in the next phase of the dialogue.

The members of the Consultation were grateful for the hospitality of the Paulist community at St. Paul’s College, and attended a Mass in the community chapel on the morning of October 22 presided over by Archbishop Pilarczyk.

The 68th meeting of the Consultation is scheduled to take place on June 6-8, 2005, at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox School of Theology in Crestwood, New York.

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation is sponsored jointly by the Standing Conference of 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. Since its establishment in 1965, the Consultation has now issued 22 agreed statements on various topics. All these texts are now available on the website of the USCCB at: and on the SCOBA website at:

In addition to the two co-chairmen, the Orthodox members of the Consultation include Father Thomas FitzGerald (Secretary), Archbishop Peter of New York, Father Nicholas Apostola, Prof. Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Father James Dutko, Prof. Paul Meyendorff, Father Alexander Golitzin, Father Emmanuel Gratsias, Dr. Robert Haddad, Father Paul Schnierla, Father Robert Stephanopoulos, and Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, General Secretary of SCOBA (staff). The additional Catholic members are Father Brian Daley, SJ (secretary), Msgr. Frederick McManus, Prof. Thomas Bird, Father Peter Galadza, Msgr. John D. Faris, Father John Galvin, Sister Jean Goulet, CSC, Father Sidney Griffith, ST, Father Joseph Komonchak, Father John Long, SJ, Father David Petras, and Father Ronald Roberson, CSP (staff).