To mark forty years of Common Statements between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, Solemn Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary was celebrated at St. James’s Catholic Church, Spanish Place, on 6 December, the Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra. Sponsored jointly by the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum (COORF) and the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin, it was presided over by The Most Rev’d Archbishop Kevin McDonald. The service, much of which was in Latin (and included settings by Monteverdi and Palestrina), was sung by the Choir of St. James’ Church, directed by Mr. Terry Worroll, with Mr. Simon Lloyd, Director of Music of the Carmelite Church in Kensington, as organist. It concluded with a Malankara Orthodox Syrian Hymn of the Annunciation of the Mother of God, sung by the choir of St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church at Brockley, directed by Dr. Thomas Jacob.
Abba Seraphim read the lesson and Archbishop Kevin spoke about the growing manifestation of unity among the churches and the work of the Forum, to which His Grace Bishop Angaelos responded. At the conclusion everyone present was invited to light refreshments, generously provided by St. James’s Church.
On the evening of Thursday 11 October, Fr. Peter Farrington and Subdeacon Daniel Malyon represented the British Orthodox Church at an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. This was held at Heythrop College and organised by the Society for Ecumenical Studies. The event involved talks by the Most Rev’d Kevin McDonald, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Southwark, and the Rev’d Dr James Hawkey, a Minor Canon of Westminster Abbey, on the state of ecumenism in the fifty years following the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church.
Archbishop Kevin Mcdonald looked at his experiences working with the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity (later renamed The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity). He covered key parts of the development of Rome’s Ecumenical relationships with the Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox and Anglicans as well as a number of protestant groups. He then went on to discuss the Roman Catholic policy towards other religions, especially Judaism. The talk was well received due to its in-depth detail and the relevance of his experience in the field.
This was followed by Rev’d Dr James Hawkey, who responded to the talk by highlighting the gains and challenges to be faced in the future of the movement. This talk also looked at the social challenges we are facing as Christian communities, such as the varying approaches to secularism and the vastly changing modern society.
The two talks were followed by observations from Methodist and United reformed Church ministers and some very well thought out questions from the audience which tackled the issues of the role of women in Roman Catholicism, inter-faith dialogue and grass-roots responses to the Ecumenical movement. These reminded us again of the many issues facing all Christian communities in the modern world.
Altogether, the night was extremely educational and informative for all there, from those who have been involved in ecumenical relations for decades to those who are new to the concept. It also demonstrated the willingness of the Christian Community to come together and work to understand each other and our shared Christian faith without compromising on their own values and practices, which is the key value of the movement itself.
On 23 January, as part of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum launched its first publication, Joint Statements between the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox Churches. The event was marked by a press conference and reception at the headquarters of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales at Eccleston Square, Westminster. It was introduced by the two co-chairs, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, President of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK and His Excellency Mgr. Kevin McDonald, Archbishop Emeritus of Southwark. Other members of the Forum attending were Abba Seraphim; His Grace Bishop Vahan Hovhannesian; Mgr. Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham; Mgr. Paul Hendriks, Auxilary Bishop of Southwark, and Father Peter Farrington (co-Secretary).
Archbishop Kevin described the various statements as “rather a well-kept secret” especially as some of the most remarkable achievements of the ecumenical movement have been precisely with the Oriental Orthodox Churches. The Joint Declarations made by both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II with the heads of the Coptic and Syriac Orthodox Churches were “real milestones.” Bishop Angaelos spoke of the real bonds of friendship which had been established within the Forum since its establishment in 2007 and of the very clear aims and objectives which continue to animate it.