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The Orthodox Dialogue

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Thirty theologians from the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches met in the Halls of the Holy Cross Church of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch in Damascus, Syria from February 2-5, 1998.

The Opening session was blessed and honored by the presence of H.B. Patriarch Ignatius IV, Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and H.H. Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I, Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East. The two co-presidents of the Joint Committee of the Dialogue, H.E. Metropolitan Damaskinos of Switzerland and H.E. Metropolitan Bishoy of Damietta, Egypt, introduced the subjects and the task of the meeting and reported about their joint activities from November 1993 up to the present.

Four papers were presented:

"Interpretation of the Christological Official Agreements" by Metropolitan Bishoy,

"Pastoral Efforts towards Unity" by Fr. Tadros Malaty,

"Bibliography on the Common Roots of Respective Liturgical Traditions" by Fr. Tadros Malaty

"Liturgical Issues and Specific Diversities" by Prof. Joannis Fauntoulis from the University of Thessalonica.

At the end of the meeting a Communique was released. The Communique stated that:

"The Meeting of the two sub-committees agreed on the following points:

To prepare and publish books and booklets by each Family, for their Theologians and common-faithfuls, different languages, to explain, clarify, and popularize the Theological Agreements stressing the authenticity of the Tradition of the Churches of the other family.

To use all available mass media to inform and explain about and the Theological Agreements.

To reaffirm that the Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches basically maintain the ancient liturgical traditions in their local liturgical types, which co-existed in the undivided Church.

To declare that liturgical issues or differences have to be theologically clarified whether they are in agreement with our common theological statements.

Consequently the expression such as "Who was crucified for us" in the Trisagion Hymn can be understood in Christological interpretation. While the hymn without this phrase can be understood both in Trinitarian or Christological senses.

In the same spirit the use of unleavened bread and unmixed wine by the Armenian Church in the Eucharist can be explained without any implications as to the Christological consensus.

To set up a small joint working group of six experts (three from each Family) to prepare joint studies and publications on liturgical issues."

It was decided that the newly formed small working group should meet for one week between Easter and Pentecost 1998. Athens, Greece would be the venue.

On Thursday February 5, 1998, the participants visited the Patriarchal Center of the Syrian Orthodox Church in the Monastery of Saint Ephrem in Maaret Sednuya near Damascus, on the invitation of H.H. Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka Iwass who personally received and hosted them.

The delegates of the Coptic Orthodox Church to the meeting were: H.E. Metropolitan Bishoy of Damietta, H.G. Bishop Benyameen of Menofia, H.G., Bishop Serapion of Los Angeles, Fr. Tadros Malaty, Fr. Athansius Henein (Athens), Fr. Shenouda Maher (Cairo) Deacon Dr. Joseph Faltas
(Cairo), and Deacon Roshdi W.B. Dous (Thessolonika).

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