The fifteenth plenary session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches was held from June 1 to 7, 2023 in Alexandria, Egypt. The meeting was hosted in an Abrahamic and paternal manner by His Beatitude Pope and Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and all Africa.
Eighteen Roman Catholic members were present, some unable to attend. Ten Orthodox Churches were represented, namely the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Patriarchate of Romania, the Patriarchate of Georgia, the Church of Cyprus, the Church of Greece, the Church of Poland, the Church of Albania and the Church of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The Committee worked under the guidance of its two co-chairmen, Metropolitan Job of Pisidia (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and Rev. Cardinal Kurt Koch (Pontifical Commission for the Promotion of Christian Unity), and with the help of the co-secretaries, Protopresbyter Alexis Torrance and Monsignor Andrea Palmieri.
During the opening session of the plenary session, which took place on Thursday, June 1, at the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Committee was warmly received by the host Pope and Patriarch Theodore II, who emphasized that “theological dialogue must be cultivated, in order to progress, bear fruit at all levels, with honesty, dignity, and mutual respect”.
In response, the two Co-chairmen expressed their thanks for the hospitality offered by the Patriarchate of Alexandria and conveyed to His Beatitude the greetings of His Holiness Pope Francis and His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, underlining the importance of the conference in the country of such great Fathers and Illuminators of the Church.
On the first day of the meeting, as is customary, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox members met separately to coordinate their work. The Committee then convened in plenary at the Holy Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Theotokos to consider the draft text prepared by the Coordinating Committee at Bose (Italy 2018 and 2019) and Rethymno (Crete 2022) meetings. A first reading of the text over several days brought many proposed amendments and revisions, which were then implemented by a drafting committee, consisting of three Orthodox and three Roman Catholic members.
Various views were exchanged during the discussion. The revised text was then submitted to the plenary, which discussed it in detail and reached an agreement on the document, entitled “Considiarity and Primacy in the Second Millennium and Today”. The delegation of the Patriarchate of Georgia expressed disagreement with certain paragraphs of the document.
The discussion focused on synodality and primacy in East and West during the second millennium, giving as much as possible a common reading of this history and giving each other the opportunity to discuss broadly, in order to “promote mutual understanding and trust which are essential conditions for reconciliation at the beginning of the third millennium”. In its conclusion, the document approved by the Commission stated that “the interdependence of synodality and primacy is a fundamental principle in the life of the Church” and that this principle “must be invoked to meet the needs and demands of the Church in our time ».
In addition, the Committee noted that some misunderstanding was evident in the receipt of the line “Appeals regarding disciplinary matters were also made at the Constantinople see and other sees” in the Chieti (2016) document, paragraph 19. The Commission decided that the aforementioned line should be read in the light of Canon 9 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council (Chalcedon 451): “If a bishop or cleric has a disagreement with the metropolitan of the province, let him appeal to the Exarch of the Metropolis, or to the throne of the Imperial City of Constantinople, and let him be tried there.”
On Saturday, 3 June, the Roman Catholic members celebrated the Holy Eucharist in the Cathedral of Saint Catherine under the direction of Cardinal Kurt Koch, in the presence of His Beatitude Pope and Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and the Orthodox members. The Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt, His Eminence Archbishop Nicolas Thévenin, and the Apostolic Vicar of Alexandria, Rev. Bishop Claudio Lurati were also present for the celebration. After the service, a reception was held by the Franciscan Community of Alexandria.
On Sunday, 4 June, the Orthodox members celebrated the Divine Liturgy for Pentecost at the Holy Patriarchal Monastery of Saint Savva of Alexandria. The celebration was presided over by His Beatitude Pope and Patriarch Theodore II, in the presence of the Roman Catholic members. Later, a reception was offered by the Greek Community of Alexandria. In the afternoon the members visited the famous Library of Alexandria.
During the services held on Saturday, June 3, and Sunday, June 4, they prayed for peace in Ukraine and for the repose of the recently deceased members of the Commission.
On Tuesday, June 6, the members of the Committee were welcomed and hosted by the Consul General of the Hellenic Republic in Alexandria, Mr. Athanasios Kotsionis, in the presence of His Beatitude Pope and Patriarch Theodoros.
On Wednesday, June 7, the delegates visited the Library and Archives of the Patriarchate of Alexandria.
During the final meeting, the Joint Committee expressed a desire to hold a Coordinating Committee meeting next year to continue the work of the Committee.
The meeting of the Joint Committee was characterized by a spirit of friendship and cooperation based on trust. The members especially appreciated the generous hospitality of the Second Throne Church of Alexandria, and express grateful thanks for all the successful efforts to the Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, His Eminence Metropolitan Panteleimon Naucratis, and to the Patriarchal Commissioner of Alexandria, His Eminence Metropolitan Narkissos Pelusium. The Members warmly recommend the ongoing work of dialogue in the prayers of the faithful.