Common Declaration - The Seventh Meeting of the Heads of the
THE SEVENTH MEETING OF THE HEADS OF THE ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES
IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Saint Mark Centre, Nasr City
21ST October, 2004
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
H.H. Pope Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See
of St. Mark,
H.H. Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I, Patriarch of Antioch and all
the East and
H.H. Catholicos Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia of
Orthodox Church, and the members of the Standing Committee H.E.
Bishoy, H.G. Bishop Moussa, H.E. Metropolitan Theophilus George
Metropolitan Elia Bahy, H.E. Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian, and H.G.
Alemezian, who are with us, give thanks to God for bringing us
again in the context of this meeting of the Heads of the Oriental
Churches in the Middle East, 20-21 October 2004 at St. Mark Centre,
Throughout history, we lived a concrete unity in faith, theology and
We experienced our oneness through the first three Ecumenical
Councils of Nicea
325, Constantinople 381, and Ephesus 431. We continue to live our
unity of faith
through church life, and in inter-church and ecumenical relations.
In this seventh meeting we had long discussions on many topics and
hereby we present our summary of our deliberations.
I. Inter-Church Relations and Bilateral Dialogues
A. Oriental Orthodox Churches-Eastern Orthodox Churches
1- We are saddened by the tragic passing of His Beatitude Petros VII
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa who was a
to our family of churches and a distinct church leader committed to
2- We extend our congratulations to H.B. Theodoros II Greek Orthodox
Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa for his election and upcoming
enthronement and wish him a fruitful ministry.
3- We have been informed about the discussions that occurred between
Metropolitan Bishoy (co-chairman of theological dialogue) and the
monks of the
Monastery of St. Gregory in Mount Athos, Greece, concerning the
Statements between the two families of Orthodoxy (1989 and 1990). In
of his discussions Metropolitan Bishoy presented four papers. His
received an extensive written response exposing their views,
objections, and expressing the progress they noticed in some areas of
4- The second meeting between our Churches and the Russian Orthodox
will be hosted by Pope Shenouda III from 13-17 December 2004, at
Centre, Nasr City, Cairo. One of the main topics in this meeting is
Christology of the Syrian Orthodox Church, as expressed in the
their highly venerated Saint, Patriarch Severus of Antioch.
5- In the first meeting of the Joint Commission for Relations
Russian Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches in the
in Moscow (September 2001) many obstacles were removed, and several
raised were answered.
6- In the meeting between Pope Shenouda III and H.H. Bartholomaios I
Ecumenical Patriarch (September 2001) it was clarified that this is
of the joint commission with the Russian Church, and that any
agreement with them if needed should be conducted in consultation
Plenary Commission of the dialogue between the two Families.
7- H.E. Metropolitan Bishoy and the new co-chairman H.E. Metropolitan
Emmanuel of France will continue their efforts of reassuring the
theological dialogue of the dialogue between the two Families.
B. Official Theological Dialogue between the Oriental Orthodox
the Anglican Communion
a. The Church of Eritrea was officially invited to this dialogue
postponed because of the ordination of Gene Robinson, the openly
bishop (2 November 2003).
b. To follow up our Theological dialogue with the Anglican
was suspended by us because of the ordination of an Anglican
in the USA, we discussed the matter in light of the Lambeth
This report was shared with us on behalf of the Archbishop of
Canterbury by Rt.
Rev. Bishop Mouneer H. Anis.
We have noted that this issue remains a major concern for the
Communion. Once again we affirm our position that all practice and
related to marriage and sexual orientation must be in accord with
and moral teachings of our Churches.
We hope that in the near future the Anglican Communion will solve
which will enable us to resume our theological dialogue with the
C. Official Theological Dialogue Between the Oriental Orthodox
Churches and the
1. The International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue
Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches had its first
by H.H. Pope Shenouda III at Saint Mark Centre, Nasr City, Cairo,
from 27 to 30
2. During the opening session of that meeting, the Co-Chairman of the
Commission, H.E. Metropolitan Bishoy read a message from Catholicos
concerning the use of the title "Catholicos" and "Catholicosate" by
Armenian Catholic Patriarch and his headquarters. This usage is
unacceptable by the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia.
The response of the Catholic Co-Chairman of the Commission, H.E.
Kasper was that he exerted and is still exerting efforts to stop and
Vatican considers the titles of "Patriarch" and these practices on
the part of
the Armenian Catholic Patriarch may jeopardize the participation of
churches in the Official Dialogue with the Catholic Church by our
Orthodox Churches in the Middle East. This issue will be carried by
representatives to the meeting at the Vatican in November 2004 which
coincide with the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the
for Promoting Christian Unity.
Meanwhile, Catholicos Aram I will inform in writing the Heads of all
Orthodox Churches and explain to them the situation. Catholicos Aram
also write to H.E. Cardinal Walter Kasper that a delegation of the
Orthodox Churches in the Middle East will discuss this matter with
him at the
Vatican in November 2004 in a special meeting notifying him if this
not solved our Churches will not participate in the official
dialogue with the Catholic Church.
3. Concerning our long standing all kinds of unofficial dialogue in
Pro-Oriente, we decided in view of the initiation of the official
the Roman Catholic Church to stop our unofficial dialogue with Pro-
authorities of Pro-Oriente should be informed through the Standing
4. Presenting his paper on the Official Dialogue between the Coptic
Church and the Catholic Church, H. E. Metropolitan Bishoy gave an
remark that the Assyrian Church of the East is publishing on its
website (www.cired.org), what they called erroneously "St.
Anathemas against Cyril," with the first anathema stating "If anyone
the Emmanuel is true God
; and if anyone calls Mary the Mother of
God the Word
, let him be anathema." We wondered how this could fit with the
Agreement between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the
in November 1994. This concern was shared with the Roman
5. The first part of ecclesiology on the agenda which deals with the
communion was chosen as the topic of the next meeting of the
Commission in Rome,
25-30 January 2005. Points 1-6 and 8 will be taken for discussion
the agenda prepared by the Preparatory Committee.
6. Representatives from our Churches, other Churches and ecumenical
are invited by the Vatican to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the
establishment of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian
Unity in the
Vatican. This event will take place near the city of Rome, 11-13
We will send our representatives to take part in this celebration.
D. Official Theological Dialogue between the Oriental Orthodox
the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (W.A.R.C).
The Executive Committee of W.A.R.C. is considering the possibility
on the second phase of this dialogue. We have decided to publish the
report of the first phase of the dialogue to replace the incorrect
incomplete reports, published by W.A.R.C. under the title of "First
the meeting was in progress.
II. ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES
A. Consultative Committee
1. Representatives of our Oriental Orthodox Churches have agreed to
meet on 24
January 2005, in Rome, as a consultative committee of our Family of
This will take place one day before the second meeting of the
Joint Commission with the Catholic Church. This consultative
committee will meet
on every occasion of theological dialogues or ecumenical meetings to
all the operation and standpoints of our Family.
2. The Family of the Oriental Orthodox Churches is composed of seven
(Coptic, Syrian, Armenians of Holy Etchmiadzin, Armenians of the
Great House of
Cilicia, Ethiopian, Indian and Eritrean). In all bilateral dialogues
ecumenical gatherings when we participate as one Family this
structure should be
kept. Therefore, we recommend that all the diocesan bishops follow
recommendations in all ecumenical gatherings.
B. Orthodox Church of Eritrea
1. A new Patriarch, H.H. Abune Antonios I, was elected in the
Church of Eritrea on 5 March 2004 and enthroned as the third
Patriarch of this
Church, on Sunday, 25 April 2004. Pope Shenouda III presided at the
and enthronement in Asmara, together with the Holy Synod of the
Orthodox Church and a Coptic Orthodox Delegation that accompanied
congratulations are expressed to H.H. Aboune Antonios I and to the
laity of this Church.
2. Responding to the need of the Church of Eritrea to consecrate
(Chrism) in Asmara, Pope Shenouda III together with a Coptic
to Asmara from 17-24 September, 2004, where he consecrated the Holy
together with H.H. Abune Antonios I and the Holy Synod of the
Tewahedo Church. Pope Shenouda III, with the concelebration of H.H.
Antonios I, also presided at the consecration of the newly built
church in the
headquarters at the Eritrean Patriarchate in Asmara.
3. The laying of the foundation stone of St. Mark Theological
celebrated by Pope Shenouda III and H.H. Abune Antonios I in the
presence of the
President of Eritrea, His Excellency Isaias Afwarki.
C. Upcoming Celebrations
1. The Silver Jubilee of the Enthronement of Patriarch Ignatius
Zakka I will be
celebrated on 14 September 2005, in Damascus, Syria.
In the start of his silver Jubilee year Patriarch Mar Zakka I
visited India and
received by his clergy and people (2milion members of Church),
Basilious Thomas together with his 17 metropolitans and bishops, met
official meeting with the president and prime minister of India. The
minister of Keralla (in India) was in permanent company along the
visit of the
2. The 10th anniversary of the Consecration of H.H. Catholicos Aram
I and the
75th Anniversary of the founding of the Theological Seminary of the
Catholicosate of Cilicia will be celebrated 20-27 June 2005, in
D. Activities of sects in countries where the faithful of the
It is clearly noticed that under the western pressure, many
Oriental Orthodox Churches exist dangerous sects, such as Jehovah's
Mormons, Adventists etc, are now being allowed or may be allowed in
future to have recognition from the states and to start their
activities against the Orthodox Christian faith, supported by huge
resources coming from the West, with suspected Zionist support. It
is our duty
to reinforce the understanding of our people to their Orthodox
beliefs and to be
prepared to respond to the claims of these heretical groups. Many
audio-visual and electronic programs, youth and Sunday School
be produced, together with visitations by the clergy to the
homes of the faithful. Our faithful should be alerted to the visits
sects home by home. With great pain we learned that in Armenia of a
recognizing Jehovah's Witnesses as a legal religious organization.
III. ECUMENICAL COLLABORATION
A. World Council of Churches
As members of the WCC we support the work of the Council and through
representatives we continue to bring our active participation in the
work of the Council.
We were informed that the WCC Commission on Faith and Order met in
Malaysia, from 28 July 6 August. We were informed that the 9th
Assembly of the WCC will be held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 14-23
An Orthodox Pre-Assembly Meeting will convene 10-17 January 2005, in
Greece. We also learned that the WCC will convene the Conference on
Mission and Evangelism in Athens, Greece May 2005.
B. Middle East Council of Churches
1. The MECC remains for our Churches in this region and important
organization. We have been founders of the MECC and our Churches
have played an
important role in the work of the Council. We will continue to
support fully the work of this Council.
2. The Eighth General Assembly held in Cyprus in December 2003
Shenouda III as the President representing the Oriental Orthodox
Churches. The General Assembly also elected, Mr. Guirguis Ibrahim
nominated by the Oriental Orthodox Family in the Middle East, to
become the new
General Secretary. We appreciate and we support all his plans and
his work aimed
at re-strengthening the MECC. We would like to express our full
appreciation to Mr. Guirguis Saleh, since we have seen how he is
able to perform his ecumenical role through increasingly developing
with the Heads of Churches in the Middle East. His spiritual trends
affecting the daily life of the personnel of the Council.
The Executive Committee appointed Mr. Razig Suriani as the director
of the Unit
on Education and Renewal for a second term and Mrs. Seta Khedeshian
director of the Unit on Life and Service.
3. The Association of Theological Institutes in the Middle East
(ATIME) in its
last planning committee meeting in Cairo, held in October 2004,
elected Rev. Fr.
Daniel Korea from the Syrian Orthodox Church was elected upon the
Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I, as the new Executive Secretary of ATIME
for a three
year term, which can be renewed.
4. We welcome the decision taken by the Executive Committee of the
reemphasize the importance of Christian-Muslim dialogue in the
region and give
more visibility and efficiency to this concern by establishing a new
We expect that these decisions will be implemented soon because we
Christian-Muslim dialogue is of special importance to the region.
C. The Consultation between the Representatives of the Oriental
Churches and the United Bible Societies (U.B.S.)
1. The first meeting with the U.B.S. was held at the Armenian
Cilicia, Antelias, Lebanon, 11-12 February 2004, by the invitation
Aram I. It was agreed that the request of the Oriental Orthodox
have special translations of the Holy Bible for their churches fully
with their canons and dogma in full accordance with the original
texts of the
Holy Bible in its original language.
IV. ORIENTAL ORTHODOX SUBCOMMITTEES
We were informed of the activities of the three subcommittees
Subcommittees for Theological Seminaries, Youth and Publications. We
encourage them to continue their fruitful activities for our
VI. JUSTICE AND PEACE
The prevailing situation in the world in general and in the Middle
particular has been part of our constant concern and ongoing
renew the commitment of our Churches to peace with justice. We
all forms and expressions of violence and urge all to engage in
actions aimed at conflict resolution through mutual love, respect
The escalation of violence and confusion in Iraq worries us. In this
this country is losing its people either by killing or immigration.
We urge all
the citizens of Iraq of all religions and culture to feel their
towards their country and one another. We call on all nations to
help the people
to Iraq to restore their country to its independence and sovereignty
full participation of all Muslim and Christian communities in Iraq.
We renew our calls for a return to the peace process with a
particular focus on
the establishment of a Palestinian state and the right to return for
Palestinians. True and lasting peace will only be realized when
dignity is upheld and maintained and when Israel according to U.N.
Council Resolutions withdraw from Arab and Palestinian territories.
We look towards the Holy Lands in the Middle East, in which our Lord
Christ was born, and pray that it may become again a land of peace
with rights returning to the deprived.
VII. NEXT MEETING OF THE HEADS AND THE STANDING COMMITTEE
God willing, the next meeting will be held in St. Ephrem Monastery,
Sadnaya, Damascus, Syria, from 6-8 December 2005 for the Standing
from 9-10 December 2005 for the Heads.
* * *
Having completed this meeting, we offer prayers of thanksgiving to
the Lord for
guiding our deliberations and work. We ask our Lord to grant us His
wisdom to continue our efforts in maintaining and preserving the
and the unity of His holy Church. We pray that God may grant to our
to the world the hope that His peace, justice and goodness will
We thank the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria for its fraternal
gracious hospitality. We extend our thanks to all those who labored,
assisted us for the success of this meeting.
Glory be to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
21 October 2004
St. Mark Centre of the Coptic Orthodox Church
Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt
Pope Shenouda III Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Catholicos Aram I
Thomas Daniel (Reji)
St. George Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church
Cheppaud, Alleppy (Dist), Kerala, India