'Sister Churches' Revisited

Reflections on Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, Eucharistic Communion, and the 10th anniversary of the Balamand Statement

It is surprising how much weight can be put on a single, limited analogy, like the notion of sisterChurches. There are several images of the Church of Christ that have been set forth by the Fathers throughout the ages: the Ark, New Israel, Chosen People, Assembly, Mystical Body of Christ, Sheepfold, Vineyard, Temple, Jerusalem, Mother, Spotless Spouse, Family/Household of God, Army, Pilgrim, etc. (see CCC 751-757; LG 6) All of these images fall short of the reality yet help us recognize certain aspects of the nature of Christ’s Holy Church.

In Catholic-Orthodox dialogue it is silly to get wrapped up in squabbles over words like “sister” or “mother”. These are metaphors that say something important about the Church, but no single image completely captures the essence of the Church. As a married man I may talk about how I am the king of my household, but obviously I am no more a ruling monarch than the Church is my biological mother.

Yet, the subject of Sister Churches seems to be what caught people’s eye in CWR’s recent interview with Archimandrite Robert Taft, S.J.

The Seventh Plenary Session of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church took place at the school of theology in Balamand, Lebanon ten years ago: June 17-24, 1993. This session, although it does not hold the same weight as canonical phraseology or an official Church document, used the phrase “Sister Churches” several times...(continue reading at CWR)