North American consultation on Filioque

Agreed Statement on Filioque Adopted by North American Orthodox-Catholic Consultation

WASHINGTON, DC -The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation concluded a four-year study of the Filioque on October 25, 2003 when it unanimously adopted an agreed text on this difficult question that has divided the two communions for many centuries. This important development took place at the 65th meeting of the Consultation, held at St. Paul's College in Washington, DC, under the joint chairmanship of Metropolitan Maximos of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh and Roman Catholic Archbishop Pilarczyk of Cincinnati.

The original version of the Creed most Christian churches accept as the standard expression of their faith dates from the First Council of Constantinople, in 381, and has been used by Orthodox Christians since that time. Towards the end, this Creed states that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father." The word Filioque ("and the Son") was later added to the Latin version of this Creed used in the West, so that the phrase as most western Christians know it reads that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son." This modification appeared in some areas of Western Europe as early as the 6th century but was accepted in Rome only in the 11th century. This change in the wording of the Creed and the underlying variations in understanding the origin and procession of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity have long been considered a church-dividing issue between Catholics and Orthodox. The Consultation had been studying this question since 1999 in the hope of eventually releasing an agreed statement.

Entitled "The Filioque: A Church-Dividing Issue?", the ten-thousand word text has three major sections. The first, "The Holy Spirit in the Scriptures," summarizes references to the Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments. The more lengthy second section, "Historical Considerations," provides an overview of the origins of the two traditions concerning the eternal procession of the Spirit and the slow process by which the Filioque was added to the Creed in the West. It also shows how this question concerning Trinitarian theology became entwined with disputes regarding papal jurisdiction and primacy, and reviews recent developments in the Catholic Church which point to a greater awareness of the unique and normative character of the original Greek version of the Creed as an expression of the faith that unites the Orthodox East and Catholic West. The third section, "Theological Reflections," emphasizes our limited ability to speak of the inner life of God, points out that both sides of the debate have often caricatured the positions of the other, and lists areas in which the traditions agree. It then explores the differences that have developed regarding terminology, and identifies both theological and ecclesiological divergences that have arisen over the centuries.

In a final section, the Consultation makes eight recommendations to the members and bishops of the two churches. It recommends that they "enter into a new and earnest dialogue concerning the origin and person of the Holy Spirit." It also proposes that in the future both Catholics and Orthodox "refrain from labeling as heretical the traditions of the other side" on this subject, and that the theologians of both traditions make a clearer distinction between the divinity of the Spirit, and the manner of the Spirit's origin, "which still awaits full and final ecumenical resolution." The text also urges theologians to distinguish, as far as possible, the theological issues concerning the origin of the Holy Spirit from ecclesiological issues, and suggests that attention be paid in the future to the status of councils of both our churches that took place after the seven ecumenical councils of the first millennium. And finally, in view of the fact that the Vatican has affirmed the "normative and irrevocable dogmatic value of the Creed of 381" in its original Greek version, the Consultation recommends that the Catholic Church use the same text -without the Filioque- "in making translations of that Creed for catechetical and liturgical use".

The 66th meeting of the Consultation was scheduled to take place from June 2004, at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts.


source:  Orthodox Publications North America

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