In 1996 the Holy Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church declared that worship in common is possible today between the Catholic Melkites and the Greek Orthodox Antiochians. It was a historic statement and a prayer that there might be a unifying bridge between the great Christian Churches.
The reaction from the Antiochian Church and the Roman Church was cool.
- Excerpt of the statement of the Holy Synod of the Antiochian Orthodox Patriarchate
- “In this regard, our Church questions the unity of faith, which the Melkite Catholic think has become possible. Our Church believes that the discussion of this unity with Rome is still in its primitive stage.”
- Excerpt from a letter by the Congregation for the Eastern Churches to the Melkite Patriarch.
- “As to the various aspects of communicatio in sacris, it is necessary to maintain a constant dialogue in order to understand the meaning of the current regulation in force, in the light of underlying theological presuppositions; premature, unilateral initiatives are to be avoided, where the eventual results may not have been sufficiently considered, they could produce serious consequences for other Eastern Catholics, especially for those living in the same region.”
- Excerpt of Metropolitan Philip Saliba’s letter to the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America
- “. . . we cannot and will not enter into communion with non-Orthodox until we first achieve the unity of faith. As long as this unity of faith is not realized, there cannot be inter-communion.”
Bishop John Elya’s Remarks
At the January 1998 Diocesan Pastoral Council Meetings in San Bernardino, CA the Melkite Eparch of Newton, Bishop John Elya, spoke to the Melkite role as a mediator. The following is an excerpt of his remarks.
“All Christians should be concerned about the prayer of our Lord at the Last Supper: “That All May Be One.” Ours in particular as Melkites or Eastern Catholics is the vocation of “unifiers.” Between the two giants of Christianity, Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy, we stand as the humble and unassuming mediator.
Let us face it, standing in the middle is not an easy job.
There is an Arabic saying, true in all languages: “The mediator gets two thirds of the beating,”
Remember the role of Peter III, Patriarch of Antioch who set himself as a mediator between the Old Rome and the New Rome in 1054. At the time of that unfortunate Great Schism, we, the Orthodox Church of Antioch stayed in communion with both warring brothers. Peter III earned the title of “Apostle of Christian Unity.” In a similar daring move, our Melkite Synod in 1996 tried to re-establish a comparable “double communion” with the Apostolic See of Rome, and with the Orthodox, but to no avail. Times have changed and the conditions of the world have progressed one thousand years; but the appeal of unity is still luring the successor of Peter III and bishops in a similar unattainable venture.”