Orthodox Theological Conference in Greece Discusses Questions of Eastern Catholic Churches and the War in Ukraine
From Wednesday 11 January to Sunday 15 January 2023 about 450 participants gathered in Volos, Greece, for the International Orthodox Theological Association (IOTA) conference. Over the course of the conference, the participants gathered to pray at daily liturgical services, to hear scholarly papers in 95 sessions, and to discuss various topics related to theology in the contemporary world. The scope of the conference was broad, engaging with questions of ecclesiology, church history, liturgical practice, Christian anthropology and sexuality, nationalism, war and peace, to name just a few, from pastoral and scholarly academic perspectives.
Although the topic of the conference was “Mission and the Orthodox Church,” many papers and sessions dealt with themes arising from the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, including the opening keynote address by Metropolitan Ambrosios (Zographos) of Korea, who spoke of the difficult experience of the Eastern Orthodox Metropolis of Korea of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in light of jurisdictional disputes initiated by the Moscow Patriarchate there in recent years.
Among the participants present at the IOTA conference were several scholars who have collaborated with the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv or the Sheptytsky Institute at the University of Toronto in Canada, including: Professor José Casanova, Senior Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.; Rev. Dr. Thomas Németh, Professor and Chair of Eastern Christian Studies at the University of Vienna; Subdeacon Dr. Brian Butcher, Secretary for Ecumenical and Interfaith and Relations of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops; Subdeacon Dr. Justin Shaun Coyle, Professor of Church History and Theology at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon, and Mrs. Megan Coyle; Seminarian Julian Hayda, currently reporting for National Public Radio (NPR) from Ukraine, and Mrs. Summer Fields Hayda; and Deacon Dr. Daniel Galadza, Professor of Byzantine Liturgy at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome.
Father Thomas Németh presented a paper in the Ecumenical Dialogue Group session entitled “Reflections on the Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue from an Eastern Catholic Perspective,” and Mr. Julian Hayda and Professor Justin K.H. Tse, of the Singapore Management University, presented a paper entitled “The ‘Pravda’ in ‘Pravoslavie’: Secular News and Orthodox Truths amid the Russian-Ukrainian War.”
A special session on “Kyiv as a Supra-Confessional Center of Christianity” presented new research by five Ukrainian scholars, currently working in Poland, the United Kingdom, and Germany due to the war, on contacts between Roman and Greco-Catholics with the Orthodox Kyiv Caves Lavra as well as the ties between Kyiv and Mount Athos, to name just a few of the topics. For the full programme, see iota-web.org/volos-conference-program.
The next major IOTA conferences with take place in 2025 in Istanbul, hosted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and in 2027 in Georgia.