Monday, November 7, 2011

Orthodox-Catholic meeting laments anti-Christian effects of ‘Arab Spring’

The political and social unrest of the “Arab Spring” is unleashing forces that are having a “devastating effect” on the Middle East’s Christian communities, a joint meeting of North American leaders from the Orthodox and Catholic Churches said.

“Our Churches in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine report disturbing developments such as destruction of churches and massacres of innocent civilians that cause us grave concern,” the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation said on Oct. 29.

“Many of our church leaders are calling Christians and all people of good will to stand in solidarity with the members of these ancient indigenous communities.”

“We are concerned for our fellow Christians who, in the face of daunting challenges, struggle to maintain a necessary witness to Christ in their homelands,” said the consultation, which held its 81st meeting at St. Paul’s College in Washington, D.C. from Oct. 27 to 28.

“United with them in prayer and solidarity, we ask our fellow Christians living in the West to take time to develop a more realistic appreciation of their predicament. We ask our political leaders to exert more pressure where it can protect these Churches, many of which have survived centuries of hardship but now stand on the verge of disappearing completely.”

The consultation’s statement cited St. Paul’s words: “When one part of the body suffers, all suffer.”

Christians in the West have the “vital responsibility” to respond to the needs of their brothers and sisters who “live in fear for their lives and communities.”

“As Orthodox and Catholic Christians we share this responsibility and this concern together.”

Catholic Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans chaired the Orthodox-Catholic consultation. There was no Orthodox co-chairman at the event because of the retirement of Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh, who previously held the position.

Commission members reported about major events in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. They also continued their study about the role of the laity in the two Churches and the intermediate or regional levels of ecclesial authority.

Members of the commission included U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference officials, theology and seminary professors, and Fr. Mark Arey, the general secretary of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas.

Despina D. Prassas, Ph.D., associate professor of theology at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, became the newest Orthodox member of the consultation.

The commission next meets at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass. June 5-7.

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