New document from the theological dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches
The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches has published a new document entitled “The Sacraments in the Life of the Church”.
The document reflects “a broad consensus... both in the theology and in the practice of the sacraments”, on the basis of which it recommends increased pastoral collaboration. After a first part on the definition and theological meaning of the sacraments, the second part of the document deals with the seven sacraments: sacraments of initiation (baptism, chrismation/confirmation, eucharist); sacraments of healing (penance/confession, anointing of the sick); sacraments of service and commitment (marriage, orders). The third part makes some recommendations for greater pastoral cooperation between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.
The document, finalised by the Commission at its last plenary session, was signed on 23 June 2022 by Cardinal Kurt Koch and Coptic Orthodox Bishop Kyrillos of Los Angeles, Co-chairs of the Commission.
Receiving the members of the Commission on the same day, Pope Francis welcomed the adoption of the document “that shows the existence of a broad consensus and one that, with the help of God, will be able to mark a new step forward towards full communion”. The Holy Father encouraged the deepening of a “pastoral ecumenism”, asking whether it might not “be possible to extend and multiply such pastoral agreements, above all in those situations in which our faithful are a minority and in the diaspora?”
Founded in 2003, the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches includes representatives of the Catholic Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, the Armenian Apostolic Church (Catholicossate of All Armenians – See of Etchmiadzin and Catholicossate of Cilicia), the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
The Commission has already published two documents, the first in 2009 on the “Nature, Constitution and Mission of the Church”, and the second in 2015 on “The Exercise of Communion in the Life of the Early Church and its Implications for Our Search for Communion Today”.
For a presentation of the new document, see the article in L'Osservatore Romano of 26 January 2023 by Rev. Fr. Hyacinthe Destivelle OP, Co-secretary of the Commission.