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Relations between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches

The Vatican, 25 January 1997

At the end of their official meeting, His Holiness Pope John Paul II and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia, give thanks to God who has enabled them to deepen their spiritual brotherhood in Jesus Christ and their pastoral and evangelizing vocation in the world. It was a privileged occasion to pray and reflect together, to renew their commitment to and their joint efforts for Christian unity.

The meeting between the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia and the Pope of the Catholic Church marks an important stage in their relationship. These relations, which date to the beginning of Christianity in Armenia, took on particular importance in Cilicia from the 11th to the 14th centuries, and continued after the Catholicosate of Sis was exiled from its see and established in 1930 in Antelias, Lebanon.

Pope John Paul II and Catholicos Aram I rejoice at their meeting in the context of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It recalls the urgent need for full communion between Christians, for the sake of carrying out their essential mission which is first and foremost the witness to Christ who died and rose for humanity’s salvation. For two millenniums, unity of faith in Jesus Christ, God’s gift, was maintained as essential, despite Christological and ecclesiological controversies which were frequently based on historical, political, or sociocultural factors. This communion of faith, already affirmed in recent decades by their predecessors during their meetings, was solemnly reaffirmed recently at the meeting of His Holiness John Paul II with His Holiness Catholicos Karekin I. Today the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter, and the Catholicos of Cilicia pray that their communion of faith in Jesus Christ may progress because of the blood of the martyrs and the fidelity of the Fathers to the Gospel and the apostolic Tradition, manifesting itself in the rich diversity of their respective ecclesial traditions. Such a community of faith must be concretely expressed in the life of the faithful and must lead us towards full communion.

Thus the two spiritual leaders stress the vital importance of sincere dialogue bearing on theological and pastoral areas, as well as on other dimensions of the life and witness of believers. The relations already existing are an experience that encourages direct and fruitful collaboration between them. Their Holinesses are firmly convinced that in this century, when Christian communities are more deeply engaged in ecumenical dialogue, a serious rapprochement supported by mutual respect and understanding is the only sound and reliable way to full communion.

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