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The term Oriental Orthodoxy refers to the churches of Eastern Christian traditions that keep the faith of only the first three ecumenical councils of the undivided Church - the councils of Nicea, Constantinople and Ephesus. The Oriental Orthodox churches rejected the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon.
Thus, despite potentially confusing nomenclature, Oriental Orthodox churches are distinct from the churches that collectively refer to themselves as Eastern Orthodoxy. It should be noted that this nomenclature, originating in English, is rather difficult in some other languages: two different English words having the same meaning normally, but different etymologies (one Germanic, the other Romance), can be used to refer to two different things. Other languages, e.g. Romance languages such as French, do not have two words that could be used in such a manner, and thus this terminology is impossible in them. For this reason, many are uncomfortable with this terminology in English, although it has become common for lack of a better term.
The Oriental Orthodox churches came to a parting of the ways with the remainder of Christianity in the 5th century. The separation resulted in part from the Oriental Orthodox churches' refusal to accept the Christological dogmas promulgated by the Council of Chalcedon, which held that Jesus has two natures — one divine and one human, although these were inseparable and only act as one hypostasis. To the hierarchs who would lead the Oriental Orthodox, this was tantamount to accepting Nestorianism. In response, they advocated a formula that stressed unity of the Incarnation over all other considerations. The Oriental Orthodox churches are therefore often called Monophysite churches, although they reject this label, which is associated with Eutychian Monophysitism, preferring the term "non-Chalcedonian" or "Miaphysite" churches. Oriental Orthodox Churches reject the Monophysite teachings of Eutychus and the Dyophysite teachings of Nestorius.
In the 20th century, the Chalcedonian schism was not seen with the same relevance any more, and from several meetings between the Roman Catholic Pope and Patriarchs of the Oriental Orthodoxy, re conciling declarations emerged.
The confusions and schisms that occurred between their Churches in the later centuries, they realize today, in no way affect or touch the substance of their faith, since these arose only because of differences in terminology and culture and in the various formulae adopted by different theological schools to express the same matter. Accordingly, we find today no real basis for the sad divisions and schisms that subsequently arose between us concerning the doctrine of Incarnation. In words and life we confess the true doctrine concerning Christ our Lord, notwithstanding the differences in interpretation of such a doctrine which arose at the time of the Council of Chalcedon.
Oriental Orthodox Communion
The Oriental Orthodox Communion is a group of churches within Oriental Orthodoxy which are in full communion with each other. The communion includes:
- The Oriental Orthodox Communion
Assyrian Church of the East
The Assyrian Church of the East is sometimes considered an Oriental Orthodox Church, although they left the Catholic and Apostolic Church in reaction against the Council of Ephesus 20 years earlier and revere Saints anathematized by the previously mentioned Churches. In addition, they accept a Nestorian or Nestorian-like Christology that is categorically rejected by the Oriental Orthodox Communion.
- Website on the unity between Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches
- Common declaration of Pope John Paul II and HH Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
- Saint Takla Haymanot Coptic Orthodox Church - Alexandria - Egypt)
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