Catholics and Orthodox Unite in Call for Peace in the Middle East

Members of both Churches appealed for the release of two Syrian archbishops kidnapped by armed thugs while on a humanitarian mission.

(photo: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON — Dialogue between Catholic and Orthodox Christians in the U.S. and Canada has resulted in a strong call for the release of two abducted Syrian Orthodox bishops, as well as peace across the Middle East.

In an Oct. 26 joint statement, Catholic and Orthodox officials affirmed that “we repudiate all violence and demand action by responsible authorities to end the kidnapping, torture and killing of Christians and all civilians.”

The document, “The Plight of Christians in the Middle East: Revisited,” stated, “We also appeal for the release of Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, both of Aleppo, Syria.”

More than four months ago, Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church and Archbishop Boulos Yagizi of the Greek Orthodox Church were reportedly kidnapped in northern Syria by armed men who killed their driver, Deacon Fatha' Allah Kabboud.

The archbishops had been on a humanitarian mission to help two kidnapped priests. The identity of the kidnappers and the whereabouts of the kidnapped bishops remain unknown.

The statement came from the North American Orthodox Catholic Theological Consultation, a meeting hosted every five years in Canada that gathers Catholic and Orthodox theologians together.

This year's meeting was hosted by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and was co-chaired by Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis and by Metropolitan Methodios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston. It was held Oct. 24-26 in Mississauga, Ontario.

The consultation included discussions on topics such as cooperation between the two branches of apostolic Christianity, the role of the bishop of Rome, priestly celibacy, synodality and Church governance, as well as the role of the laity in the Church.

The meeting also included a panel discussion among seminarians from the Greek Orthodox Theological Academy of Toronto and St. Augustine's Catholic Seminary. In fostering an ecumenical spirit, the seminarians discussed the consultation's 2010 document “Steps Towards a Reunited Church.”

The statement that resulted from the meeting called “the situation of many of the Christian communities in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine … catastrophic” and urged action.

It stated, “When one part of the body suffers, all suffer. As Orthodox and Catholic Christians, we, therefore, have the responsibility to respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters. We call upon our communities to continue to pray for the churches and for peace in this part of the world.”

“We urge the leadership of our churches to continue to intervene vigorously in behalf of the Christians of the Middle East, who live in fear for their lives, their communities, and the very future of Christianity in the region,” the statement said.

The consultation added that, “with regard to Syria in particular … we join Pope Francis in exhorting the international community ‘to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation.’”