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21Joint Communique of Pope John Paul II and Patr. Ignatius Zakka I

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  • Thomas Joseph
    Oct 22, 2000
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      Dear Daniel,

      Here is the text of the Joint Communique signed on Saturday, June 23,
      1984 by Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I at the
      Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, Rome:

      (1) His Holiness John Paul II, Bishop of Rome and Pope of the
      Catholic Church, and His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas,
      Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and Supreme head of the
      Universal Syrian Orthodox Church, kneel down with full humility in
      front of the exalted and extolled Heavenly Throne of our Lord Jesus
      Christ, giving thanks for this glorious opportunity which has been
      granted them to meet together in His love in order to strengthen
      further the relationship between their two sister Churches, the
      Church of Rome and the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch-the
      relationship already excellent through the joint initiative of Their
      Holinesses of blessed memory Pope Paul Vl and Patriarch Moran Mor
      Ignatius Jacoub III.

      (2) Their Holiness Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Zakka I wish
      solemnly to widen the horizon of their brotherhood and affirm here
      with the terms of the deep spiritual communion which already unites
      them and the prelates, clergy and faithful of both their Churches, to
      consolidate these ties of Faith, Hope and Love, and to advance in
      finding a wholly common ecclesial life.

      (3) First of all, Their Holinesses confess the faith of their two
      Churches, formulated by the Nicene Council of 325 AD and generally
      known as 'the Nicene Creed'. The confusions and schisms that occurred
      between their Churches in the later centuries, they realize today, in
      no way affect or touch the substance of their faith, since these
      arose only because of differences in terminology and culture and in
      the various formulae adopted by different theological schools, to
      express the same matter. Accordingly, we find today no real basis for
      the sad divisions and schisms that subsequently arose between us
      concerning the doctrine of Incarnation. In words and life we confess
      the true doctrine concerning Christ our Lord, notwithstanding the
      differences in interpretation of such a doctrine which arose at the
      time of the Council of Chalcedon.

      (4) Hence we wish to reaffirm solemnly our profession of common faith
      in the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, as Pope Paul Vl and
      Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Jacoub III did in 1971. They denied that
      there was any difference in the faith they confessed in the mystery
      of the Word of God made flesh and become truly man. In our turn we
      confess that, He became incarnate for us, taking to himself a real
      body with a rational soul. He shared our humanity in all things
      except sin. We confess that our Lord and our God, our Saviour and the
      King of all, Jesus Christ, is perfect humanity. In Him His divinity
      is united to His humanity. This union is real, perfect, without
      blending or mingling, without confusion, without alteration, without
      division, without the least separation. He who is God eternal and
      indivisible, became visible in the flesh and took the form of
      servant. In him are united, in a real, perfect indivisible and
      inseparable way, divinity and humanity, and in Him all their
      properties are present and active.

      (5) Having the same conception of Christ, we confess also the same
      conception of His mystery. Incarnate, dead and risen again, our Lord,
      God and Saviour has conquered sin and death. Through him during the
      time between Pentecost and the Second Coming, the period which is
      also the last phase of time, it is given to man to experience the new
      creation, the kingdom of God, the transforming ferment (cf. St. Mt.
      X111: 33)already present in our midst For this God has chosen a new
      people, His holy Church which is the body of Christ. Through the Word
      and through the Sacraments the Holy Spirit acts in the Church to call
      everybody and make them members of this Body of Christ. Those who
      believe are baptized in the Holy Spirit in the name of the Holy
      Trinity to form one body and through the Holy Sacrament of the
      anointing of Confirmation their faith is perfected and strengthened
      by the same Spirit.

      (6) Sacramental life finds in the Holy Eucharist its fulfilment and
      its summit, in such a way that it is through the Eucharist that the
      Church most profoundly realizes and reveals its nature. Through the
      Holy Eucharist the event of Christ's Pasch expands throughout the
      Church. Through Holy Baptism and Confirmation, indeed, the members of
      Christ are anointed by the Holy Spirit, grafted on to Christ; and
      through the Holy Eucharist the Church becomes what she is destined to
      be through Baptism and Confirmation. By communion with the body and
      blood of Christ the faithful grow in that mysterious divinization
      which by the Holy Spirit makes them dwell in the Son as children of
      the Father.

      (7) The other Sacraments, which the Catholic Church and the Syrian
      Orthodox Church of Antioch hold together in one and the same
      succession of Apostolic ministry, i.e. Holy Orders, Matrimony,
      Reconciliation of penitents and Anointing of the Sick are ordered to
      that celebration of the Holy Eucharist which is the centre of
      sacramental life and the chief visible expression of ecclesial
      communion. This communion of Christians with each other and of local
      Churches united around their lawful Bishops is realized in the
      gathered community which confesses the same faith, which reaches
      forward in hope of the world to come and in expectation of the
      Saviour's return and is anointed by the Holy Spirit, who dwells in it
      with charity that never fails.

      (8) Since it is the chief expression of Christian unity between the
      faithful and between Bishops and priests, the Holy Eucharist cannot
      yet be concelebrated by us. Such celebration supposes a complete
      identity of faith such as does not yet exist between us. Certain
      questions, in fact, still need to be resolved touching the Lord's
      will for His Church, as also the doctrinal implications and canonical
      details of the traditions proper to our communities which have been
      too long separated.

      Our identity in faith, though not yet complete, entitles us to
      envisage collaboration between our Churches in pastoral care, in
      situations which nowadays are frequent both because of the dispersion
      of our faithful throughout the world and because of the precarious
      conditions of these difficult times. It is not rare, in fact, for our
      faithful to find access to a priest of their own Church materially or
      morally impossible. Anxious to meet their needs and with their
      spiritual benefit in mind, we authorize them in such cases to ask for
      the Sacraments of Penance, Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick from
      lawful priests of either of our two sister Churches, when they need
      them. It would be a logical corollary of collaboration in pastoral
      care to cooperate in priestly formation and theological education.
      Bishops are encouraged to promote sharing of facilities for
      theological education where they judge it to be advisable. While
      doing this we do not forget that we must still do all in our power to
      achieve the full visible communion between the Catholic Church and
      the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch and ceaselessly implore our
      Lord to grant us that unity which alone will enable us to give to the
      world a fully unanimous Gospel witness.

      (10) Thanking the Lord who has allowed us to meet and enjoy the
      consolation of the faith we hold in common (cf. Rom. 1:12) and to
      proclaim before the world the mystery of the Person of the Word
      incarnate and of His saving work the unshakeable foundation of that
      common faith, we pledge ourselves solemnly to do all that in us lies
      to remove the last obstacles still hindering full communion between
      the Catholic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, so
      that with one heart and voice we may preach the word: "The True Light
      that enlightens every man" and "that all who believe in His name may
      become the children of God" (cf. St. John1:9-12).