The Catholic Archbishop of Southwark, Most Rev Kevin McDonald and the Coptic Orthodox Bishop Angaelos marked the Week of Christian Unity today, with the launch of the first book compiled by the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum: ‘Joint Statements between the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox Churches’.
The book includes statements by Pope Benedict XVI and by the leadership of the Syrian, Coptic and Armenian Orthodox Churches. It aims to increase ecumenical cooperation and raise people’s awareness on Catholic and Oriental Orthodox similarities, rather than differences.
Speaking at the launch at the offices of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Bishop Angaelos, who co-chairs Forum with Archbishop McDonald, said: “We’re facing serious threats of increased secularism and marginalization of religion in general and Christianity in particular. As members of first century churches we really need to both live and introduce people to the wealth, meaning and value of what it means to witness and live our Christianity today.
“It’s very easy to become theoretical about theology and forget that we are talking about our faith in the incarnate word, in salvation and in the presence of God. We forget to speak in communion of what we can have in common.”
Bishop Angaelos gave the example of the time he sent a letter of support to the Catholic Church during the adoption issue a few years ago because of the common stance.
“When you’re in a dialogue, it’s not about compromise, its about reaching deeply into the Biblical routes in such a way that convergence can be developed,” said Archbishop McDonald. “The purpose of publishing this book is precisely to engage people in this process at a local, grass-root level.
“We’re not talking about agreed statements from theologians that have yet to be ratified,” said the Archbishop of Southwark. “We’re talking about agreed statements to which the Catholic Church is already committed.”
“These differences will be resolved because Christ makes one promise about one flock and one shepherd and we will be unified one day,” said Bishop Angaelos.”We have a lot in common, which far outweighs our differences.
“We have so much happening this year with the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee so there needs to be a very clear Christian voice. Also, if our faithfuls don’t see us working together, it’s pointless to preach about love, forgiveness and acceptance from the pulpits.”
The General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church said he also hopes to have shared prayer gatherings in the future to get more people involved.
Other members of the Forum attending were Abba Seraphim; His Grace Bishop Vahan Hovhannesian; Mgr Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham; Mgr Paul Hendriks, Auxilary Bishop of Southwark, and Father Peter Farrington (co-Secretary).