POPE SHENOUDA III, PATRIARCH ZAKKA
I AND CATHOLICOS ARAM
I SIGN A COMMON DECLARATION
SOLNews - ANTELIAS, Lebanon - April 19-21, 2007, the Heads of the Oriental
Orthodox Churches, who have their headquarters in the Middle East, His Holiness
Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Church, His
Holiness Patriarch Zakka I of the Syrian Church and His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of the Armenian Church-Holy See of
Cilicia, held their 10th annual meeting, at St. Ephrem Syrian Orthodox
Monastery, Damascus-Syria. This fellowship of three Oriental Orthodox
Churches was founded in 1996, by the initiative of His Holiness Aram I, at
the Holy See of Cilicia, Antelias, Lebanon.
16-18, the Standing Committee of the Fellowship convened its meeting in Antelias and Damascus.
The representatives of the Holy See of Cilicia in this six-member Committee
are His Eminence Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian (Primate of Tehran) and His Grace Bishop Nareg Alemezian (Ecumenical
their deliberations, Heads addressed issues related to the family of the Oriental Orthodox
Churches and its theological
dialogues with various Churches, and discussed matters related to dialogue
with the Eastern Orthodox Churches,
the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran World
of the Reformation.
Pope Shenouda III
and Patriarch Zakka I asked Catholicos Aram I to follow up the issues related to
these theological dialogues to deepen the collaboration between the Oriental Orthodox Churches
and these Churches.
spiritual Heads encouraged the continuation of their relations and
collaboration with the Russian Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox
Churches with the
United Bible Societies.
the official theological dialogues, three important decisions were taken:
First, to re-activate the Eastern Orthodox-Oriental Orthodox theological
dialogue, according to the decisions taken during recent meetings in Antelias. Secondly, it is expected that the Archbishop of
Canterbury hold an official meeting with Catholicos
I to clarify the current situation in the Anglican Communion and discuss
practical steps for the resumption of the dialogue. Thirdly, to welcome the
invitation received through Catholicos Aram
I from the Lutheran World Federation to strengthen relations with the
Oriental Orthodox Churches and to establish an instrument for regular
Underlining the visible unity of church as a
priority, their Holinesses renewed their commitment to and active participation
in the ecumenical movement through the World Council of Churches and the
Middle East Council of Churches. Pope Shenouda III
and Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I extended their deep gratitude to Catholicos Aram I for his ecumenical
involvement of so many years and his leadership in the World Council of
Churches, especially as its moderator for the last fourteen years.
Analyzing the socio-political situation in
the world and particularly in the Middle East,
they called their faithful to work constantly for peace with justice. They
also expressed their full support to the Christian-Muslim dialogue as
integral to the history and cultures of the Middle East.
At the end of their meeting, Heads signed a
11th meeting of the three Heads will be hosted by the Armenian Church - Holy
See of Cilicia, in Antelias-Lebanon, May 8-10, 2008.
THE TENTH MEETING OF THE HEADS OF THE ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES IN THE MIDDLE EAST
St. Ephrem Monastery, Ma’arat Saydnaya, Damascus, Syria
April 19-21, 2007
C O M M O N D E C L A R A T I O N
the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; Amen.
Pope Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch
of the See of St. Mark, Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I, Patriarch of Antioch
and all the East, and Catholicos Aram I, Catholicos of the Armenians of the Great House of
Cilicia, give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ for granting us, once again,
the opportunity to pray and to reflect together on issues and challenges of
common concern, at St. Ephrem Monastery, in Ma’arat
Saydnaya, Damascus, Syria. This is the tenth time
that we meet as Heads of Churches within the framework of the Fellowship that
we have established in 1996. The Standing Committee that we have appointed
has joined us.
In our meeting here in Ma’arat
Saydnaya we reaffirmed our unity of faith that, for
centuries, has been the basis of our common doctrinal position and
theological teachings. Deeply rooted in the Holy Scriptures, the Apostolic
Faith and Tradition, the three Ecumenical Councils (Nicea
325, Constantinople 381, and Ephesus
431) and the teachings of our Church Fathers, our unity has sustained the
life and witness of the Churches of the Oriental Orthodox Family becoming a
living source of spiritual strength and missionary engagement. For the
Oriental Orthodox Churches the full communion and the visible unity of
churches are based on the unity of faith which is manifested through
Eucharistic communion and other Sacraments of the church.
our unity of faith we are not confined to the family of the Oriental Orthodox
Churches; we feel also responsible to strive for the unity of all churches,
both in our region and in different parts of the world. We consider the
visible unity of church a priority. We remain firmly committed to the
ecumenical movement both through the World Council of Churches, as a global
ecumenical fellowship, and the Middle East Council of Churches, as a regional
ecumenical fellowship. We will continue our active role in the World Council
of Churches. We express our satisfaction for the adoption of the consensus
decision making by the World Council of Churches. The Ninth General Assembly
of the World Council of Churches has already conducted its business in Porto Allegre, Brazil,
according to this procedure. We encourage the Permanent Committee on
Consensus and Collaboration to continue the mandate of the Special Commission
on Orthodox Participation in the World Council of Churches. We will also
continue our active role in the Middle East Council of Churches, and we look
forward with hope to the next General Assembly of the M.E.C.C. in Cyprus,
November 26-30, 2007.
Pope Shenouda III and H.H. Patriarch Ignatius Zakka
I extend their deep gratitude to H.H. Catholicos Aram I for
his ecumenical commitment for so many years and his leadership in the World
Council of Churches, especially as its moderator for the last fourteen years.
In our endeavor for the unity of the church, our
Churches are engaged in a number of bilateral theological dialogues. We
believe that these theological dialogues with the Eastern Orthodox, Roman
Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Reformed Churches will further affirm the
orthodoxy of the Christological teachings of the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Those
theologians, who used to call us monophysite
(single nature), have came to realize that we are miaphysite (one united nature), following the teachings
of our common father St. Cyril of Alexandria.
There still exist differences of doctrinal, ecclesiological, liturgical and
ethical nature, which need more dialogue and discussion with other churches. We
should keep in mind that the reception of the agreements of theological
dialogues by the churches needs time and patience.
the Theological Dialogue between the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental
Orthodox Families, His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I has
commissioned the new co-president of the Joint Commission of the dialogue
Metropolitan Emmanuel of France to meet Catholicos Aram I asking
his assistance for the reactivation of this theological dialogue. Subsequently
the two co-presidents of the Joint Commission, Metropolitan Emmanuel and
Metropolitan Bishoy met at the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia, Antelias, Lebanon, on April 17, 2007 and
discussed the future steps.
International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic
Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches
held its fourth meeting from January 28 to February 3, 2007 in Rome. The fifth meeting
of the Commission will take place at St. Ephrem Syrian Orthodox monastery, Ma’arat Saydnaya, Damascus, Syria,
from January 27 to February 2, 2008, by the invitation of Patriarch Ignatius
Archbishop of Canterbury H.G. Rowan Williams
recently sent a delegation to visit us in Lebanon,
Egypt and Syria to
discuss the possibility of resuming the work of the Commission of Theological
Dialogue between our Churches and the Anglican Communion. In order to be able
to achieve this goal, we expect that the Archbishop of Canterbury hold an
official meeting with Catholicos Aram I, who
is in charge of the theological dialogues of our Fellowship. The purpose of
this meeting will be to clarify the current situation in the Anglican
Communion, share with the Archbishop the views and concerns of our three
Churches, and discuss practical steps for the resumption of the dialogue.
received through Catholicos Aram I an
invitation from the Lutheran World Federation to strengthen relations with
the Oriental Orthodox Churches and to establish an instrument for regular
bilateral contacts. We welcome this invitation. We will convey this
invitation also to the other Churches of our Family.
are fully aware of the events surrounding us in our region. Our churches are
called to work constantly for the just peace in the Middle
East. The Christian-Muslim dialogue has been integral to the
history, civilizations and cultures of the Middle East.
Our churches in this region have been in existential dialogue with Islam. Due
to emerging new situations and new developments taking place especially in Iraq and Palestine,
continuous efforts must be made to deepen mutual respect and understanding
between Muslim and Christian scholars and community leaders. Everybody has
the right to explain and defend his or her religion without becoming
aggressive and offensive towards the other religion. The same should apply to
media which became a highly sensitive agent affecting the relations between
cultures, religions and nations.
condemn all forms and expressions of violence. Religion should be a promoter
of love, hope and reconciliation, peace, justice and human rights. Religion
cannot be exploited for non-religious purposes. We urge all those who, for
one reason or other, use violence to resolve their problems. The problems
must be resolved through dialogue, mutual understanding and mutual respect.
focused our attention on Iraq
which is exposed to the destructive activities of evil forces. This
prevailing critical situation obliges a great numbers of people, both Muslims
and Christians, to emigrate from their homeland. We encourage the United
Nations (U.N.) and all the humanitarian organizations to support the suffering
people of Iraq,
wherever they are, till the Lord gives their country security and stability.
believe that the peace process must continue with new impetus, and the
Palestinian people must have its independent state and the right to return
home. Israel must
implement all Resolutions of the U.N. Security Council by withdrawing from
the occupied Arab territories, including the Farms of Shabaa
in South of Lebanon, Golan Heights and Jerusalem.
Only full justice will bring about comprehensive, real and permanent peace in
the Middle East.
pray and hope that the Lebanese leaders may soon reach, through frank
dialogue, to mutual understanding leading Lebanon to security, peace, and
unity with the participation of all communities.
We noted with satisfaction that the Christians in Iran are participating in the
social, cultural and economic life of the country and enjoying the freedom of
practicing their Christian faith.
greet the President of the Republic
of Syria, His Excellency Dr. Bashar Al-Assad, the heads of
all religious communities and the people of Syria. We noted with joy that the
Christians in Syria
are engaged in a renewal process: they are experiencing religious freedom;
they are organizing church activities; they are building new churches and
monasteries; and they are playing an active role in society and contributing
to the progress of the country.
appeal to our faithful, in the Middle East
and throughout the world, to remain firmly attached to the Gospel, its values
and imperatives, and participate more actively in the church’s total
life and witness. We are committed to intensify and deepen further our
collaboration within this Fellowship. We are also committed, under the
guidance of the Holy Spirit, to give a renewed efficiency and vitality to the
witness of our Churches particularly in educational, theological, diaconal,
evangelistic and ecumenical spheres.
conclude our Tenth Meeting, we would like to express our thanks to His
Holiness Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I for his warm hospitability.
the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all the faithful of our Churches.
Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of
Mar Ignatius Zakka I
Patrairch of Antioch
and All the East
Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia