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Relations between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches

The Vatican, April 19, 1983

1. The meeting between the Catholicos of Cilicia and the Bishop of Rome, in the Paschal light of the Holy Year of the Redemption 1983, opens a new stage in the relations between our Churches. For over twenty years fraternal dialogue had progressed in a spirit of charity and of truth and in a number of different ways: the fruitful participation of the observers of the Catholicossate in the labours of Vatican Council II, the meeting of Pope Paul VI and the Catholicos Khoren I of blessed memory, common research in theology, local instances of pastoral collaboration, positive contributions to Christian unity and to social justice within the framework of various requirements of the ecumenical movement on the international, regional and local levels. But today our Churches are called upon to respond together to more and more urgent appeals, and this meeting in the name of their common Lord confirms them in their common desire to respond to these.

2. There is first of all the urgency of the full communion of our Churches in view of their essential mission: the salvation of mankind today. On this third Sunday of Easter when the Armenian Church is celebrating “the Church of the Universe” (Ashkharhamadour) the meeting between the pastors of our Churches witnesses to the importance of direct and personal relations between brothers, servants of the sole Saviour of men; and these will be continued into the future. Moreover, it is important that there be continued common theological research – the dialogue of faith – animated by the more and more clear and refined awareness that, within the unity of the faith diversity is a divine richness and an indispensable condition of the unity of the ecclesial communion.

Our Churches also have before them an immense field of cooperation where they can henceforth advance and work out, in mutual understanding, esteem, trust and an effective charity: the theological formation of both clerics and lay people, collaboration in the catechetical instruction of the young and of adults, the practical solution of situations of common pastoral concern, social action, cultural promotion, humanitarian services … in all these domains where the Spirit of the Lord is urging us to witness to Christ, Son of God our Saviour, it is certain that without neglecting the structures of collaboration on the international and regional levels, priority is to be given on the level of the local Churches. Just as indeed the Risen Christ is “manifested in our midst” in the celebration of the divine Liturgy (cf. the kiss of peace in the Eucharist according to the Armenian tradition), so also is he manifested in the midst of all by the divine Diaconia of his Church as servant of men.

3. If in the world of today all the Churches have become “frontier” Churches in existential relation with other religious or ideological world-views, this is especially true in the case of the local Churches of the Middle East. Such has been the particular vocation of the Armenian Church since the very beginnings, and it is therein engaged in our days within the framework of Christian witness in that region and in the other countries of its diaspora.

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