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Vienna Consultations

Consultations with the Oriental-Orthodox Churches

The PRO ORIENTE consultations between Roman Catholic and Oriental-Orthodox theologians took place in two phases. The first phase comprises the so-called Vienna Consultations (1971-1988), while the second phase began in 1991 and ended provisionally with the beginning of the official Catholic-Oriental-Orthodox dialogue in January 2004.

3. Wiener Altorientalenkonsultation 1976


Relations between the Roman Catholic and Coptic Orthodox Churches suddenly improved in 1968 thanks to an extraordinary event. On the occasion of the Coptic Church's year commemorating St. Mark and the Christianisation of Egypt, the Vatican returned to this ancient church relics of St. Mark that had been brought to Venice 1000 years earlier.
The idea of an encounter between Oriental-Orthodox and Roman Catholic theologians was born in July 1970. Two personalities contributed decisively to the realisation of this idea thanks to their experience and contacts:
- Then President and later Archbishop of the Armenian Church in Austria, Dr. Mesrob K. KRIKORIAN, with his experience of theological consultations between the Orthodox Churches of the Byzantine and Oriental traditions (Aarhus 1964, Bristol 1967, Geneva 1970 and Addis Abeba 1971).
- The contacts of Msgr. Otto MAUER, Chairman of PRO ORIENTE’s Theological Advisory Board.
Also of particular importance was the visit of the Syrian Archbishop of Baghdad and Basrah (later patriarch) Mar Zakka Iwas, Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, to PRO ORIENTE in Vienna in June 1971.

Mode of Operation and Aims

The consultation participants were invited to inform their ecclesiastical authorities of the purpose of the talks and their unofficial nature, and took part in the Vienna consultations as experts without an official mandate. This approach proved to be well suited for the consultations and were a prerequisite for the success of numerous encounters with both the Oriental-Orthodox and the Byzantine Orthodox Churches.

PRO ORIENTE's discussions with theologians from the various churches focused on the problems that led to the division at the Council of Chalcedon (451), and on possible ways of eliminating the causes for the separation of the two church families.

Evaluation and Results

Results of the five consultations
With the five unofficial consultations, the so-called Vienna consultations between theologians of the Oriental-Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church, the alienation that had developed over more than 15 centuries began to heal and mutual trust grew.

- The most successful breakthrough occurred at the first Vienna consultation in 1971. Thanks to the intervention of Amba Shenouda, who became Shenouda III, successor of St. Mark to the See of Alexandria a few weeks later, the so-called Vienna Christological Formula was hammered out, which was to end the Christological disputes between the East and West over the nature of Jesus Christ. This formula was later included in the official Joint Declarations signed by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II on the one hand, and by Patriarch Shenouda III and the Patriarchs Yacub III and Zakka I Iwas and other leaders of the Oriental Churches on the other.

- The Vienna consultations also initiated two bilateral dialogues: the official dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Coptic Orthodox Churches, which began in 1973, and the official Joint International Commission for Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Malankara Orthodox Church of India, which began its work in 1989. The official Dialogue Commission, which consists of representatives of the Vatican and the Oriental Orthodox Churches and which began its work in Cairo in 2004, also draws on the unofficial results of PRO ORIENTE's theological discussions.

- Seminars and Regional Symposia (1991-2004)
In 1989 PRO ORIENTE established a standing committee of all Oriental Orthodox Churches involved in the dialogue, in order to study issues which were raised at the previous five Vienna consultations but which required further scholarly investigation.


Erstes Regionalsymposium mit Vertretern der orientalisch-orthodoxen Kirchen