Pro Oriente


25. March 2024
Thema: 60th Anniversary of PRO ORIENTE


As a Consultor of Pro Oriente and a former member of the Syriac Dialogue Commission, I am happy to share some thoughts on the importance of the work that Pro Oriente carries out.

A first point that is close to my heart is that for several decades Pro Oriente has offered a forum of encounter between members of the churches of the Syriac tradition. Despite a common Syriac spiritual tradition, it is not a matter of course that members of these churches are in contact with each other, for geographical, theological and church-political reasons. The forum offers an opportunity to learn how each church seeks to remain faithful to its Syriac tradition while exposing it to the challenges of our modern times. It is a process of learning, of asking questions, of suggesting possible solutions and of relativizing age-old prejudices. This is done in a spirit of openness, where each member speaks for him or herself and not as a spokesperson for the official hierarchy. It is this unofficial, "low level" and "out of the box" approach that eventually led to the official Christological Declarations, for example, between the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, or between the Assyrian Church of the East and the Roman Catholic Church. The Forum is a living form of ecumenism and I fondly remember the beautiful liturgy in the Syriac-Orthodox monastery of Deir al-Za'faran (Turkey) with the active participation of members of the Chaldean Church and the Church of the East at the end of an in situ meeting organized by Pro Oriente, a unique event!

Secondly, Pro Oriente is not primarily an organization for theologians, church leaders or people involved in ecumenical work, but it is also very much concerned with spreading knowledge and arousing sympathy for the Eastern and Oriental Churches, which are often unknown to the Western public. In this way, Pro Oriente contributes to creating a climate of understanding for Christian refugees from Turkey, Iraq and Syria. It also makes Western Christians aware that the Christian faith can be expressed in ways other than those of the Western, Latin Church.

Thirdly, Pro Oriente is responsible not only for a number of popular publications in line with my previous point, but also for some high level, more academic works. I think of the new series of Pro Oriente Studies in Syriac tradition and especially of its predecessor, the five volumes on Syriac Dialogue. Some contributions bear witness to the fact that ecclesial positions and approaches can only benefit from exposure to academic research. The aforementioned Christological Declarations would not have been possible without the scholarly approach to and the new interpretation of the ancient, classical texts.

Wishing Pro Oriente: Ad multos annos !

Herman Teule

Former director of the Institute for Oriental Christian Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen. Professor emeritus of Near Eastern Christianity, Radboud University Nijmegen and University of Louvain.