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Common Declaration - The Seventh Meeting of the Heads of the Oriental Orthodox

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  • Thomas Daniel
    Common Declaration - The Seventh Meeting of the Heads of the Oriental Orthodox THE SEVENTH MEETING OF THE HEADS OF THE ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES IN THE MIDDLE
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 2, 2005
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      Common Declaration - The Seventh Meeting of the Heads of the
      Oriental Orthodox

      THE SEVENTH MEETING OF THE HEADS OF THE ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES
      IN THE MIDDLE EAST

      Saint Mark Centre, Nasr City
      Cairo, Egypt

      21ST October, 2004



      COMMON DECLARATION

      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
      the Armenian
      Orthodox Church, and the members of the Standing Committee H.E.
      Metropoolitan
      Bishoy, H.G. Bishop Moussa, H.E. Metropolitan Theophilus George
      Saliba, H.E.
      Metropolitan Elia Bahy, H.E. Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian, and H.G.
      Bishop Nareg
      Alemezian, who are with us, give thanks to God for bringing us
      together once
      again in the context of this meeting of the Heads of the Oriental
      Orthodox
      Churches in the Middle East, 20-21 October 2004 at St. Mark Centre,
      Nasr City,
      Cairo, Egypt.

      Throughout history, we lived a concrete unity in faith, theology and
      doctrines.
      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
      issues 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
      the
      Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa who was a
      sincere friend
      to our family of churches and a distinct church leader committed to
      work for
      orthodox unity.

      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
      Agreed
      Statements between the two families of Orthodoxy (1989 and 1990). In
      the context
      of his discussions Metropolitan Bishoy presented four papers. His
      Eminence
      received an extensive written response exposing their views,
      concerns and
      objections, and expressing the progress they noticed in some areas of
      Christology.

      4- The second meeting between our Churches and the Russian Orthodox
      Church
      will be hosted by Pope Shenouda III from 13-17 December 2004, at
      Saint Mark
      Centre, Nasr City, Cairo. One of the main topics in this meeting is
      the
      Christology of the Syrian Orthodox Church, as expressed in the
      teachings of
      their highly venerated Saint, Patriarch Severus of Antioch.

      5- In the first meeting of the Joint Commission for Relations
      between the
      Russian Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches in the
      Middle East,
      in Moscow (September 2001) many obstacles were removed, and several
      questions
      raised were answered.

      6- In the meeting between Pope Shenouda III and H.H. Bartholomaios I
      the
      Ecumenical Patriarch (September 2001) it was clarified that this is
      the mandate
      of the joint commission with the Russian Church, and that any
      theological
      agreement with them if needed should be conducted in consultation
      with the
      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
      process of
      theological dialogue of the dialogue between the two Families.

      B. Official Theological Dialogue between the Oriental Orthodox
      Churches and
      the Anglican Communion

      a. The Church of Eritrea was officially invited to this dialogue
      which was
      postponed because of the ordination of Gene Robinson, the openly
      homosexual
      bishop (2 November 2003).

      b. To follow up our Theological dialogue with the Anglican
      Communion, which
      was suspended by us because of the ordination of an Anglican
      homosexual bishop
      in the USA, we discussed the matter in light of the Lambeth
      Commission Report.
      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
      Anglican
      Communion. Once again we affirm our position that all practice and
      behavior
      related to marriage and sexual orientation must be in accord with
      the biblical
      and moral teachings of our Churches.


      We hope that in the near future the Anglican Communion will solve
      this matter
      which will enable us to resume our theological dialogue with the
      Anglican
      Communion.

      C. Official Theological Dialogue Between the Oriental Orthodox
      Churches and the
      Catholic Church

      1. The International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue
      between the
      Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches had its first
      meeting, hosted
      by H.H. Pope Shenouda III at Saint Mark Centre, Nasr City, Cairo,
      from 27 to 30
      January 2004.

      2. During the opening session of that meeting, the Co-Chairman of the
      Commission, H.E. Metropolitan Bishoy read a message from Catholicos
      Aram I,
      concerning the use of the title "Catholicos" and "Catholicosate" by
      the new
      Armenian Catholic Patriarch and his headquarters. This usage is
      deemed
      unacceptable by the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia.

      The response of the Catholic Co-Chairman of the Commission, H.E.
      Cardinal Walter
      Kasper was that he exerted and is still exerting efforts to stop and
      that the
      Vatican considers the titles of "Patriarch" and these practices on
      the part of
      the Armenian Catholic Patriarch may jeopardize the participation of
      our three
      churches in the Official Dialogue with the Catholic Church by our
      three Oriental
      Orthodox Churches in the Middle East. This issue will be carried by
      our
      representatives to the meeting at the Vatican in November 2004 which
      will
      coincide with the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the
      Pontifical Council
      for Promoting Christian Unity.

      Meanwhile, Catholicos Aram I will inform in writing the Heads of all
      Oriental
      Orthodox Churches and explain to them the situation. Catholicos Aram
      I, will
      also write to H.E. Cardinal Walter Kasper that a delegation of the
      Oriental
      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
      problem is
      not solved our Churches will not participate in the official
      theological
      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
      dialogue with
      the Roman Catholic Church to stop our unofficial dialogue with Pro-
      Oriente. The
      authorities of Pro-Oriente should be informed through the Standing
      Committee of
      this decision.

      4. Presenting his paper on the Official Dialogue between the Coptic
      Orthodox
      Church and the Catholic Church, H. E. Metropolitan Bishoy gave an
      important
      remark that the Assyrian Church of the East is publishing on its
      official
      website (www.cired.org), what they called erroneously "St.
      Nestorius' Counter
      Anathemas against Cyril," with the first anathema stating "If anyone
      says that
      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
      Christological
      Agreement between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the
      East signed
      in November 1994. This concern was shared with the Roman
      Catholics.

      5. The first part of ecclesiology on the agenda which deals with the
      church as
      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
      according to
      the agenda prepared by the Preparatory Committee.

      6. Representatives from our Churches, other Churches and ecumenical
      associations
      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
      November 2004.
      We will send our representatives to take part in this celebration.

      D. Official Theological Dialogue between the Oriental Orthodox
      Churches and
      the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (W.A.R.C).

      The Executive Committee of W.A.R.C. is considering the possibility
      of embarking
      on the second phase of this dialogue. We have decided to publish the
      final
      report of the first phase of the dialogue to replace the incorrect
      and
      incomplete reports, published by W.A.R.C. under the title of "First
      Draft" while
      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
      Churches.
      This will take place one day before the second meeting of the
      International
      Joint Commission with the Catholic Church. This consultative
      committee will meet
      on every occasion of theological dialogues or ecumenical meetings to
      coordinate
      all the operation and standpoints of our Family.

      2. The Family of the Oriental Orthodox Churches is composed of seven
      delegations
      (Coptic, Syrian, Armenians of Holy Etchmiadzin, Armenians of the
      Great House of
      Cilicia, Ethiopian, Indian and Eritrean). In all bilateral dialogues
      and
      ecumenical gatherings when we participate as one Family this
      structure should be
      kept. Therefore, we recommend that all the diocesan bishops follow
      the
      recommendations in all ecumenical gatherings.

      B. Orthodox Church of Eritrea

      1. A new Patriarch, H.H. Abune Antonios I, was elected in the
      Orthodox Tewahedo
      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
      consecration
      and enthronement in Asmara, together with the Holy Synod of the
      Eritrean
      Orthodox Church and a Coptic Orthodox Delegation that accompanied
      him. Our
      congratulations are expressed to H.H. Aboune Antonios I and to the
      clergy and
      laity of this Church.

      2. Responding to the need of the Church of Eritrea to consecrate
      Holy Myron
      (Chrism) in Asmara, Pope Shenouda III together with a Coptic
      delegation traveled
      to Asmara from 17-24 September, 2004, where he consecrated the Holy
      Myron
      together with H.H. Abune Antonios I and the Holy Synod of the
      Eritrean Orthodox
      Tewahedo Church. Pope Shenouda III, with the concelebration of H.H.
      Abune
      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
      College was
      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),
      Catholicos Mar
      Basilious Thomas together with his 17 metropolitans and bishops, met
      with the
      official meeting with the president and prime minister of India. The
      prime
      minister of Keralla (in India) was in permanent company along the
      visit of the
      Antiochene Pontiff.

      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
      Antelias,
      Lebanon.

      D. Activities of sects in countries where the faithful of the
      Oriental Orthodox
      Churches live

      It is clearly noticed that under the western pressure, many
      countries where
      Oriental Orthodox Churches exist dangerous sects, such as Jehovah's
      Witnesses,
      Mormons, Adventists etc, are now being allowed or may be allowed in
      the near
      future to have recognition from the states and to start their
      manipulating
      activities against the Orthodox Christian faith, supported by huge
      financial
      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
      publications,
      audio-visual and electronic programs, youth and Sunday School
      curriculum should
      be produced, together with visitations by the clergy to the
      homes of the faithful. Our faithful should be alerted to the visits
      by these
      sects home by home. With great pain we learned that in Armenia of a
      new law
      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
      our
      representatives we continue to bring our active participation in the
      ecumenical
      work of the Council.

      We were informed that the WCC Commission on Faith and Order met in
      Kuala Lumpur,
      Malaysia, from 28 July – 6 August. We were informed that the 9th
      General
      Assembly of the WCC will be held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 14-23
      February 2006.
      An Orthodox Pre-Assembly Meeting will convene 10-17 January 2005, in
      Rhodes,
      Greece. We also learned that the WCC will convene the Conference on
      World
      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
      ecumenical
      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
      encourage and
      support fully the work of this Council.

      2. The Eighth General Assembly held in Cyprus in December 2003
      elected Pope
      Shenouda III as the President representing the Oriental Orthodox
      Family of
      Churches. The General Assembly also elected, Mr. Guirguis Ibrahim
      Saleh,
      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
      support and
      appreciation to Mr. Guirguis Saleh, since we have seen how he is
      capable and
      able to perform his ecumenical role through increasingly developing
      relations
      with the Heads of Churches in the Middle East. His spiritual trends
      are clearly
      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
      as the
      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
      nomination of
      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
      MECC to
      reemphasize the importance of Christian-Muslim dialogue in the
      region and give
      more visibility and efficiency to this concern by establishing a new
      committee.
      We expect that these decisions will be implemented soon because we
      believe that
      Christian-Muslim dialogue is of special importance to the region.

      C. The Consultation between the Representatives of the Oriental
      Orthodox
      Churches and the United Bible Societies (U.B.S.)

      1. The first meeting with the U.B.S. was held at the Armenian
      Catholicosate of
      Cilicia, Antelias, Lebanon, 11-12 February 2004, by the invitation
      of Catholicos
      Aram I. It was agreed that the request of the Oriental Orthodox
      Churches to
      have special translations of the Holy Bible for their churches fully
      coinciding
      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
      respectively the
      Subcommittees for Theological Seminaries, Youth and Publications. We
      bless and
      encourage them to continue their fruitful activities for our
      churches.

      VI. JUSTICE AND PEACE

      The prevailing situation in the world in general and in the Middle
      East in
      particular has been part of our constant concern and ongoing
      discussions. We
      renew the commitment of our Churches to peace with justice. We
      strongly condemn
      all forms and expressions of violence and urge all to engage in
      processes and
      actions aimed at conflict resolution through mutual love, respect
      and trust.


      The escalation of violence and confusion in Iraq worries us. In this
      situation
      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
      responsibility
      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
      with the
      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
      the
      Palestinians. True and lasting peace will only be realized when
      justice and
      dignity is upheld and maintained and when Israel according to U.N.
      Security
      Council Resolutions withdraw from Arab and Palestinian territories.

      We look towards the Holy Lands in the Middle East, in which our Lord
      Jesus
      Christ was born, and pray that it may become again a land of peace
      and tolerance
      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,
      Ma'arat
      Sadnaya, Damascus, Syria, from 6-8 December 2005 for the Standing
      Committee and
      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
      grace and
      wisdom to continue our efforts in maintaining and preserving the
      Apostolic faith
      and the unity of His holy Church. We pray that God may grant to our
      people and
      to the world the hope that His peace, justice and goodness will
      prevail.

      We thank the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria for its fraternal
      love and
      gracious hospitality. We extend our thanks to all those who labored,
      prayed and
      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

      Source: http://www.mec-churches.org/positions/Oriental_churches.htm

      Posted By:
      Thomas Daniel (Reji)
      St. George Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church
      Cheppaud, Alleppy (Dist), Kerala, India
      http://www.socdigest.org
      http://apostolicvisit.cjb.net
      http://groups.msn.com/StGeorgeSyrianOrthodoxChurchCheppaud
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