On October 8, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox leaders met at New York’s St. Vartan Cathedral for a meeting of the joint commission of both “families” of churches. It was the first such meeting in nearly a decade.
The meeting also provided an occasion for Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel to welcome Archbishop Elpidophoros, the recently-installed leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, to the cathedral for the first time.
Following a prayer service in the sanctuary, the attendees convened in the Diocesan Center’s tahlij for their meeting and lunch. In exploring practical ways to advance the relations between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches in the U.S., the clergymen discussed marriage and baptism, religious education, and common areas of advocacy, including concerns over the Middle East.
“St. Vartan Cathedral has always been friendly ground for many Christian denominations to gather together for theological conversation, collaboration, and prayer,” said Bishop Daniel. “We were delighted to continue this tradition by hosting our Orthodox brothers.”
Bishop Daniel and Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, the Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Director, represented the Armenian Church at the meeting. Also joining in the prayer service were Diocesan vicar Fr. Simeon Odabashian and Cathedral Vicar Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan.
Spirit of Good Will and Hope
“This meeting is joyful, historic, and promising,” said Bishop David of the Coptic Orthodox Church, who leads the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches (SCOOCH). “There is a spirit of good will and potential to move forward in faith and in hope.”
Archbishop Elpidophoros, who chairs the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of the U.S.A., said that the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches share “the closest relationships in the Christian world.” While the member churches have long developed separately, he said he was encouraged by the fraternal spirit among them. “This practical approach will breathe life into the church,” he said.
“The forward-looking, pragmatic, loving tone shared by all the bishops fills me with hope and expectation,” agreed Bishop Daniel.
Joint Commission of Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches will meet again in December. In the meantime it is planning a joint Christmas concert for later this year, and a pan-Orthodox youth conference in the summer.
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