Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Malankara Orthodox Church: Report of the 1989 Meeting



Kottayam, 22-25 October 1989

A Joint commission of the (Roman) Catholic Church and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church had been set up on 27th May 1988 by His Holiness Pope John Paul II and His Holiness Catholicos Baselius mar Thoma Mathews I. The proposal to do so was made by the Catholicos of the East during his historic visit to Rome in 1983.

Its purpose is two-fold:

(a) to promote full unity and communion between the two Churches;
(b) to find mutually acceptable pastoral solutions to problems which cause friction and tension between the two Churches.

On the (Roman) Catholic side the following were present:

1.   His Grace Mar Joseph Powathi, Archbishop of Changanacherry
2.   H.E. Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry, Bishop of Kottayam
3.   H.E. Bishop Patrick D’Souza, bishop of Varanasi
4.   H.E. Bishop mar Cyril Baselios Malancharuvil, Bishop of Bathery
5.   Revd Fr Pierre Duprey, Secretary Pontifical Concil for Unity – Vatican
6.   Revd Fr Dr E.R. Hambye, Rome
7.   Monsignor Gérard Daucourt, Rome
8.   Rev. Fr Dr Xavier Koodapuzha
9.   Rev. Fr Dr Mathew Vellanickal
10. Revd Fr Dr Geevarghese Chediath.

The following represented the Orthodox side:

1.   His Grace Mathews Mar Coorilos
2.   His Grace Dr Paulos Mar Gregorios
3.   Very Revd Ramban Theophoros
4.   Revd Fr Dr V.C. Samuel
5.   Revd Fr T.J. Joshua (Substitute for H.G. Dr Philipose Mar Theophilos)
6.   Revd Fr Dr Jacob Kurien (Substitute for H.G. Thomas Mar Athanasius)
7.   Revd. Fr Dr M.A. Mathai (Substitute for Revd Fr Dr K.M. George)
8.   Revd Fr Dr V.P. Varghese
9.   Mr P.C. Abraham
10. Mr Paul Mathai.

Fr Pierre Duprey of Vatican, and Metropolitan Paulos Mar Gregorios are joint chairmen of the Commission and jointly presided over the meetings held at Sophia Centre, Orthodox Seminary, Kottayam from October 22-25, 1989. Revd Fr Dr.V.C. Samuel read a paper on the Christological consensus arrived at informal conversations, and assessing the agreement that already exists between the two sides. Revd Fr Dr Hambye read a paper referring to previous joint statements by Pope. Paul VI and Syrian Patriarch Ignatius Yaqub III and also by Pope John Paul II and Coptic Patriarch Pope Shenooda. Two other papers on problems of mixed marriages between (Roman) Catholics and Orthodox were presented by Mar Kuriakos Kunnacherry and Fr Dr Jacob Kurian.

His Holiness The Catholicos of The East gave a dinner in honour of the participants at the Devalokam Palace on Monday 23rd October. Very Revd Remban Theophoros had already hosted the luncheon on the same day. His Excellency Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry, Bishop of Kottayam, gave a luncheon for the participants on the 24th. His Grace Mar Joseph Powathil, Archbishop of Changanacherry also hosted a dinner for the participants at his residenoe on the 25th.

In.another dinner hosted by Sri P.C. Abraham, Lay Trustee of the Malankara Orthodox Church, His Holiness the Catholicos was present and was felicitated on the 15th anniversary of his enthronement as Catholicos, by Revd Fr Pierre Duprey, Secretary·of the Pontifical Commission on Promoting Christian Unity and by Metropolitan Dr Paulos Mar Gregorios, the two co-chairmen of the commission.

The participants also enjoyed a relaxing boat trip in the canals and backwaters of Kottayam, as the guests of Sri Mammen Varghese, President of the Kottayam Boat Club.

In their discussions the commissioners found a very large area of agreement on the question of the Person and Work of Chris, which was the issue that divided the Greco-Latin Churches and the·Afro-Asian or Oriental Orthodox Churches in the 5th and 6th centuries Ad. The commissioners felt that the substance of their faith was the same in this regard on both sides, though there were historically developed differences in terminology and emphasis. These differences, however, were not substantial enough to justify division of the Church and could be contained within the same communion. Overcoming the Christological difference, which was ostensibly the original cause of division, in itself constitutes a major step in the advance towards restoration of full communion between the Churches. The joint Christological statement is to be submitted to the authorities of the two Churches for their approval, and will be published on approval.

On the question of mixed marriages, it was found that the Orthodox·Church does not·permit mixed marriages and insists on both partners being members of the Orthodox Church. In the (Roman) Catholic Communion, the practice varies, between the Latin and the Oriental Churches within that communion. On the question of mixed marriages a draft document was drawn up which is to be considered by a special sub-commission consisting of:

1. His Grace Mar Joseph Powathil (Co-convener)
2. His Grace Paulos Mar Gregorios(Co-convener)
3. His Grace Mathews Mar Coorilos
4. His Grace Mar Kuriakose Kunnacherry
5. His Grace Cyril Mar Baselios
6  Revd Dr.V.C. Samuel
7. Revd Dr Xavier Koodapuzha
8. Revd Dr Jacob Kurien.

They will then produce a fuller document on the marriage problems,as well as explore ways of solving the problems which now confront the people.

The themes for the second meeting were decidéd as “Ecclesial Communion” and “Communion in the Sacramental Mysteries”. At the second meeting of the Joint Commission which is to be held in Dec. 1990, His Grace Mar Joseph Pawathill, Archbishop of Changanacherry, has offered to host the meeting.