In mid-January, HMML Executive Director Father Columba Stewart participated in the 14th annual international joint commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches in Rome. The conference was the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Hosted by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the gathering focused discussions on the historical, theological, and ecclesiological aspects of the Holy Eucharist as celebrated in the various Churches. Father Columba was one of several scholarly members that presented papers at the meeting.
Fr Columba is currently on academic leave from HMML and serving as George William Cottrell, Jr. Member in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.
"Participating were representatives of the Antiochian Syrian Orthodox Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church (Catholicosate of All Armenians and Catholicosate of the Holy See of Cilicia), the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. The meeting focused on recent developments between the two communions and the common heritage of early Christian liturgical traditions as well as contemporary issues facing diaspora communities.
In light of the inauguration of President Trump, Stewart was asked to speak on the implications for endangered religious minorities of changes in U.S. foreign policy. A number of the participants had themselves been kidnapped, detained, or otherwise persecuted in the aftermath of the 2003 Iraq invasion and the recent Syrian civil war, as had many of their people. Stewart warned that the new U.S. policy, although ostensibly intended in part to protect Christian minorities, was likely to exacerbate tensions and that Western intervention would be no more helpful to Christian minorities in the region in the current circumstances than were the Crusades."
Pope Francis was in attendance and, in his homily, noted, “Authentic reconciliation between Christians will only be achieved when we can acknowledge each other’s gifts and learn from one another, with humility and docility, without waiting for the others to learn first.”