Russian Orth: Sep-2001
Pope at Damascus: May-2001
Syriac Consultation: Jul-1997
Easter Date: Mar-1997
OO-SOC (on Marriage): Jan-1994
RC-SOC Declarations: 1971 & 1984
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We, Pope Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of
St. Mark of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I, Patriarch
of Antioch and all the East of the Syrian Orthodox Church, and Catholicos
Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Orthodox
Church, and the members of the Standing Committee: H.E. Metropolitan Bishoy,
H.G. Bishop Moussa, H.E. Metropolitan Theophilus George Saliba, H.G. Bishop
Sebouh Sarkissian, and Archimandrite Nareg Alemezian, whoare with us,
give thanks to God for bringing us together once again in the context
of this Fourth Meeting of the Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches
in the Middle East, March 15-17, 2001, at the St. Mark Center of the Coptic
Orthodox Church, Nasr City-Cairo, Egypt.
Led by our common spiritual heritage, tradition, faith, theology, doctrine
and witness, and on the basis of the Common Declarations we made in our
last three meetings (St. Bishoy Monastery-Wadi Natroun, Egypt, March 10-11,
1998; St. Ephrem Monastery-Maa'rat Sadnaya, Damascus, Syria, February
13-14, 1999; Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia, Antelias-Lebanon, May
4-9, 2000), we have come once again together as a fellowship of the Oriental
Orthodox Churches in the Middle East, to pray together, to re-affirm our
unity in faith and our firm attachment to the first three Ecumenical Councils
of Nicea (325), Constantinople (381) and Ephesus (431), as well as to
the teachings of our church fathers. We also have reconfirmed the decisions
adopted and theguidelines set by us in the context of our common witness
and service to our people particularly in the Middle East; a region where
the Church of Christ was born and true faith was received and shaped by
our fathers and martyrs through their teachings and martyrdom. This is
our sacred heritage, indeed, which was delivered to us and to be delivered
in turn to the generations to come.
Guided by the Holy Spirit and inspired by the teachings and examples
of our forefathers, we carefully studied the following important items
and took appropriate actions:
I. 1700th Anniversary Celebration of the Proclamation of Christianity
in Armenia as State Religion
Pope Shenouda III and Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I welcomed the invitation
of Catholicos Aram I to attend the celebrations of the Armenian Orthodox
Church in the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, in Antelias-Lebanon,
May 25-27, 2001, on the occasion of the 1700th Anniversary of the Proclamation
of Christianity in Armenia as State Religion. In fact, Christianity was
preached in Armenia by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, St. Thaddeus
and St. Bartholomew. Christian faith was a living reality in the life
of the Armenian people in the following centuries. It was in 301 that
Christianity became the state religion of Armenia. Hence, the Armenian
nation is the first nation to accept Christianity as state religion.
Pope Shenouda III and Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I consider the 1700th
Anniversary celebrations an excellent opportunity to share the joy of
their sister Armenian Church, to pray for its prosperity and to re-affirm
the unity that exists between the Armenian, Coptic and Syrian Orthodox
II. Theological Dialogues
A. Oriental Orthodox Churches-Eastern Orthodox Churches
- We discussed the actual state of the theological dialogue between
the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches, and emphasized the importance
of this dialogue for the full unity of Orthodox Churches.
- In response to the invitation of His Holiness Alexy II Patriarch
of Moscow and all Russia, we appointed Metropolitan Bishoy, Metropolitan
Eustathius Mattha Rohom and Archimandrite Nareg Alemezian to participate
in the meeting of the Coordinating Committee. This Committee, which
will meet in Moscow, March 20-22, 2001, will prepare the agenda for
the meeting of a larger Committee. The purpose of this Mixed Committee
will be to discuss the present situation of theological dialogue between
the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches, and to explore the possibilities
of enhancing this important process. This Committee will also identify
specific areas of closer ecumenical collaboration between our Churches
and the Russian Orthodox Church.
- The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church in June 2000 and the
Permanent Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria
and all Africa in November 2000 have approved the pastoral agreement
reached between them regarding the mutual recognition of the sacrament
of the holy matrimony blessed in their respective churches in case of
mixed marriages. We welcomed this significant ecumenical initiative,
as we did in respect to a similar decision contained in the agreement
that was reached between the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch and the
Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch.
B. Oriental Orthodox Churches-Anglican Communion
We agreed to respond positively to the letter of the Archbishop of
Canterbury, H.G. Dr. George Carey, dated January 16, 2001, addressed
to six Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches concerning the upgrading
of the theological Forum between the Oriental Orthodox Churches and
the world Anglican Communion. This resolution was taken by the Lambeth
Conference in 1988 and was re-affirmed in 1998. We decided to delegate
our representatives to the next meeting of the Forum to be held July
27-August 1, 2001, in London. The purpose of this meeting will be to
clarify matters pertaining to the agenda, procedures, methodologies
and timetable of the theological dialogue.
C. Oriental Orthodox Churches-Roman Catholic Church
- According to the decision taken in our previous meeting, Catholicos
Aram I met in Antelias with Cardinal Cassidy and Cardinal Kasper and
notified them of our readiness to start a bilateral theological dialogue
with the Roman Catholic Church, following the same structure and procedures
as with the Anglican Communion. Catholicos Aram I will continue to follow
up this process.
- We carefully reviewed the document entitled "Dominus Iesus"
issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Vatican.
We noted our basic disagreements concerning a number of points included
in this document. We decided that this document become a matter of serious
reflection in our theological dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church.
D. Oriental Orthodox Churches-World Alliance of Reformed Churches
The full report of the dialogue between the Oriental Orthodox Churches
and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), prepared in the
meeting of January 2001, at the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia, Antelias-Lebanon,
was submitted to us. This report includes an introduction about the
family of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, its theological teachings,
doctrine and traditions, as well as the Agreed Statement on Christology
signed in 1994, and a summary of their meetings (Egypt-1993, Holland-1994,
India-1997, USA-1998, Syria-1999, Scotland-2000, and Lebanon-2001).
The report particularly refers to the points of agreements and disagreements
existing between the two families.
We decided to study this report in our respective Holy Synods and consider
it further in our next meeting.
Pope Shenouda III and Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I asked Catholicos Aram
I to follow closely the developments of these theological dialogues and
share with them his views for necessary action.
III. World Council of Churches and the Special Commission for Orthodox
Participation in the World Council of Churches
We were informed about the interim report of the Special Commission for
the Orthodox Participation in the World Council of Churches that was presented
to the Central Committee of the WCC in its meeting in Germany, February
2001. We discussed a number of important issues and perspectives outlined
in the said report. Catholicos Aram I, as Moderator of the WCC, exposed
his own views concerning this critical process in the life of the WCC.
Those members of the Special Commission present with us, Metropolitan
Bishoy and Archimandrite Nareg Alemezian, shared with us their assessment
of the last meeting of the Steering Group in Geneva. In light of our discussion,
- To express our appreciation and satisfaction concerning the first
phase of the work of the Special Commission. It is our firm expectation
that in the next phase the Commission will address more comprehensively
and critically concrete issues and concerns pertaining to Orthodox participation
in the life and witness of the WCC.
- To propose that questions related to ecclesiology, as well as controversial
theological matters be discussed in the Faith and Order Commission.
We believe that Faith and Order could provide a proper context and framework
for such a discussion.
IV. Middle East Council of Churches
We received the report of the last meeting of the Executive Committee
of the Middle East Council of Churches in Lebanon, November 2000.
We expressed our joy concerning the appointment of Prof. Girgis Ibrahim
Saleh as Associate General Secretary of the MECC representing our family.
We also discussed matters related to the activities of the MECC in the
We re-affirm our support to this regional ecumenical organization as
its founding and active members. We also underline the urgent need for
making the ecumenical witness of the MECC more efficient and responsive
to the new realties and expectations of the churches in the region.
A. Sub-Committee for Theological Seminaries
We received the report of this Sub-Committee, which met on November
24-25, 2000, in Maa'rat Sayednaya-Damascus, Syria, and expressed our
appreciation about the progress made in this area. In view of the proposal
made in article 6 of the said report, we decided to establish a special
department for Oriental Orthodox Studies in our seminaries.
We appointed Metropolitan Bishoy as Coordinator and Prof. Girgis Ibrahim
Saleh as proxy of this Sub-Committee.
B. Sub-Committee for Youth
We appointed Archimandrite Nareg Alemezian as Coordinator and Father
Mashdots Chobanian as proxy. This Sub-Committee will convene in October
2001, in Antelias-Lebanon.
C. Sub-Committee for Publications
We appointed Metropolitan Theophilus George Saliba as Coordinator and
Rahban Elia Habib Bahi as proxy. This Sub-Committee will convene in
June 2001, in Cairo-Egypt.
The Standing Committee will coordinate and supervise the work of these
VI. Exchange of Resources of Information
We consider the sharing of information among our Churches a vital task
for our fellowship. Our Churches have important resources (such as books,
magazines, audio cassettes, video tapes, CD-s, etc.) that must be shared
and exchanged between our Churches. This process will significantly help
us to have deeper knowledge about the life and witness of our Churches.
VII. Peace in the Middle East
- We pray that our common Lord Jesus Christ may grant His peace to the
Middle East. We urgently need peace in our region. A comprehensive and
permanent peace with justice is achieved when the Palestinians are given
full right for an independent state having Jerusalem as its capital,
when the occupation by Israelof the West Bank, Jerusalem, Gaza, Golan
Heights and Shebaa Farms is ended.
- The attempts to change the demographic structure of Jerusalem
aiming at its Judiazation, ignoring the international agreements, building
more settlements, confiscating lands, military aggression against the
Palestinian people, refusal of the return of the refugees and besieging
of the people in their towns and villages, etc., all these will widen
the circle of violence and will never help to achieve real security
and permanent peace in the Middle East.
- We urge the international community to exert necessary efforts and
strong pressures to lift the unjust sanctions imposed on the people
of Iraq causing much suffering and pain. We invite everybody to support
the people of Iraq and especially the children, the sick and the elderly.
- The Middle East has been the birthplace of Christianity. We are not
strangers in these lands. We are integral to the civilizations, cultures
and societies of the Middle East and have played a decisive role in
the various spheres of the societies. Therefore, we appeal to our faithful
to remain firmly attached to this region, including the Holy Land. We
must strengthen and re-organize the Christian presence and witness in
our region, at the same time deepening our peaceful co-existence and
dialogue of love with our Muslim neighbors based on mutual respect and
- We pray for the peace of the whole world and ask God to support the
peaceful efforts of all people of good will to overcome violence in
its various forms and manifestations.
* * *
At the end of our meeting, we thank the Lord for His guidance in our
deliberations and decisions. We ask Him to give us the strength and courage
to work for the unity of His Church and for peace with justice.
We thank the Coptic Orthodox Church for her love and kind hospitality.
We also thank all who prayed and assisted us for the success of this meeting.
Glory be to God the Father, the
Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Pope Shenouda III Mar Ignatius Zakka
I Iwas Catholicos Aram I
March 17, 2001
St. Mark Center Coptic Orthodox Church
Nasr City-Cairo, Egypt