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English Translation of Ruling on Married Eastern Catholic Priests

Unofficial Translation provided by The Byzantine Forum
http://www.byzcath.org/forums/ubbthreads.php/topics/409388/Re:_Pope_Francis_universally_a#Post409388

This is the document to which i referred in Friday’s post, Married Catholic Priests Coming to a Parish Near You.

ACTS OF THE CONGREGATION FOR THE EASTERN CHURCHES
Pontifical Ruling Regarding Married Eastern Clergy

A) Introductory Note

Canon 758 §3 [of the] CCEO (Oriental Code of Canon Law) states that: “Regarding the admission to holy orders of married [men], the particular law of [each] Church sui iuris or special norms established by the Apostolic See are to be observed.”

That allows that each Church sui iuris can decide on the admission of married [men] to holy orders.

At present, all Eastern Catholic Churches may allow married men to the diaconate and the priesthood, except the Syro-Malabarese and Syro-Malankara Churches.

Thus, the Canon provides that the Apostolic See can enact special rules in this regard.

The Holy Father Benedict XVI, in his post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente (Churches in the Middle East) of 14 September 2012, after having stated that “priestly celibacy is an inestimable gift of God to His Church, which must be accepted with gratitude, both in the East and in the West because it is a prophetic, timeless sign,” reminded that “the ministry of married priests is a component of the ancient Eastern traditions,” and encouraged them because “with their families, [they] are called to holiness in the faithful exercise of their ministry and in their living conditions in difficult times.”

The issue of the ministry of married priests outside the traditional eastern territories dates back to the final decades of the nineteenth century, especially since 1880, when thousands of Ruthenian Catholics emigrated from Sub-Carpathia, as well as western Ukraine, to the United States of America. The presence of their married clergy aroused protests by the Latin Bishops that their presence would cause gravissium scandalum[grave scandal] to the Latin faithful. Thus, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, by decree of October 1, 1890, forbade married Ruthenian clergy to reside in the US.

In 1913, the Holy See decreed that only celibates could be ordained as priests in Canada.

In the years 1929-1930, the then-Congregation for the Eastern Church (CCO) issued three decrees, which prohibited the exercise of ministry by married Eastern priests in certain regions:

1) the Decree Cum Data Fuerit of March 1, 1929, by which [the Congregation] forbade the exercise of ministry by married Ruthenian clergy who emigrated to North America.

2) the Decree Qua Sollerti of 23 December 1929, by which [the Congregation] extended its prohibition of ministry to all married Eastern clergy who emigrated to North or South America, to Canada, or to Australia.

3) the Decree Graeci-Rutheni of 24 May 1930, by which [the Congregation] stated that only celibate men could be admitted to the seminary and promoted to holy orders.

Deprived of ministers of their own rite, a number, estimated at about 200,000, of the Ruthenian faithful passed into Orthodoxy.

The referenced legislation was extended to other territories not considered ‘eastern regions’; exceptions were granted only after hearing from the local Episcopal Conference and receiving permission from the Holy See.

Since the problem persisted, the Congregation for the Eastern Churches involved the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. On 20 February 2008, having reviewed the entire matter in Ordinary Session, [the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] rendered the following decision: “Considering the existing rule – which binds Eastern priests in pastoral service to the faithful in the diaspora to obligatory celibacy, similarly to Latin priests – in specific and exceptional cases, the possibility of a dispensation exists, [which is] reserved to the Holy See.” The above was approved by the Holy Father Benedict XVI.

It should be noted that, even in the West, in recent times, with the [issuance of the] motu proprio Anglicanorum Coetibus, although not written for the Eastern clergy, a discipline was adopted, [which] considered specific situations of [married] priests and their families coming into Catholic communion.

B) Provisions approved by the Holy Father

The Plenary Session of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, held 19 to 22 November 2013 at the Apostolic Palace, discussed the issue extensively and subsequently presented to the Holy Father a request to concede to their Ecclesiastical Authority the faculty to allow pastoral service by married Eastern clergy outside of the traditional eastern territories.

The Holy Father, in the audience granted to the Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, December 23, 2013, approved that request

contrariis quibuslibet minimum ostantibus, (all considerations to the contrary notwithstanding)

according to the following guidelines:

– in the Eastern Administrative Constituencies (Metropolia, Eparchies, Exarchates) constituted outside of the traditional territories, these faculties are conferred on the Eastern Hierarchs, to exercise according to the traditions of their respective Churches. Also, the Ordinary, possessing faculties to ordain married Eastern candidates from a respective region, [has] an obligation to give prior notice, in writing, to the Latin Bishop of the candidate’s place of residence, so as to obtain his opinion and any relevant information [regarding the candidate].

– in Ordinariates for the Eastern faithful who are deprived of their own Hierarchs, the faculty [to ordain married men to the priesthood] is conferred on the Ordinary, and he shall inform the respective Episcopal Conference and this Dicastry of the specific cases in which he exercises [the faculty].

– in territories in which the Eastern faithful are deprived of a specific administrative structure and are entrusted to the care of the Latin Bishops of the place, the faculty [to ordain married men to the priesthood] will continue to be reserved to the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, which will pursue specific and exceptional cases after hearing the opinion of the respective Episcopal Conference.

Given at the Seat of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, 14 June 2014

Leonardo Cardinal Sandri
Prefect

http://www.byzcath.org/forums/ubbthreads.php/topics/409388/Re:_Pope_Francis_universally_a#Post409388

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Married Catholic Priests Coming to a Parish Near You

akiki_family_photo-255x277

Rev. Wissam Akiki and family. (Ordained presbyter in Feb 2014)

Pope Francis has moved to allow more married Catholic priests.
It is just that they are not Roman Catholic priests.

This, according to a document of the Pontifical Congregation for Oriental Churches, leaked today by Sandro Magister, the well-known Italian Vaticanist of La Repubblica.

The Congregation has issued a precept, “Pontificia Praecepta de clero Uxorato Orientali” – signed back in June and with papal approval– which allows the Eastern Churches to ordain married men wherever the Church is found, and to bring in already married priests to serve as needed, throughout the world. [6/106 Acta Apostolica Sedes, 496-99]

Most people know that Catholic priests of the Latin Church (the Roman Catholic Church) must be celibate. The exceptions being, since the 1980’s, former Lutheran or Anglican clergy who come into full communion, who may continue their presbyteral ministry while married.

Most Catholics are at least vaguely aware that this medieval discipline does not apply to most of the 22 Eastern Catholic Churches, who do in fact allow married men to become presbyters – it is only their bishops who are necessarily monastic, and therefore celibate. (Deacons are universally allowed to be either married or celibate).

Fewer people are aware of the embarrassing history that has restricted these churches from either ordaining married men “outside their traditional ritual territory” or, in some cases, even sending married priests to serve in these countries. Starting with migrations of Ruthenians in 1880 to the U.S., the Latin bishops (almost entirely Irish) of the States were so scandalized by the idea of married presbyters that they convinced the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith to restrict married clergy from following their flocks to the new world. By 1929-30, these limitations were repeated and even expanded to other “Latin territories”.

This move so effectively undercut the sacramental ministry and infrastructure of the Eastern Catholic Churches in the States, that about 200,000 Catholics and their married clergy left communion with Rome, and effectively populated the Orthodox Church of America and other Orthodox jurisdictions.

fr-alexis-toth-with-ruthenian-clergy-1890-web

Eastern Catholic Clergy meeting, 1890.

This is one of many examples of a kind of aggressive Latinization – forcing Eastern Churches to take on Latin/Roman practices – that has occurred over the centuries. The whole idea that Eastern Churches could only follow their own practices within their “traditional territory” is dubious in any case – do we say the same for the Roman Catholics? Is celibacy of diocesan clergy – a particularity of being “Roman” not of being “Catholic” – limited only to the “traditional territory” of the western Roman empire? What sense does it mean in an era when there are more Eastern Catholics outside “traditional territory” than within?

What it really shows is a flawed ecclesiology and a lack of due respect to the autonomy of the diverse practices and patrimony of ancient and apostolic churches in communion with Rome. How, our Orthodox sister churches would ask, is it possible to take Rome seriously on proposals for reunion when she treats Eastern Catholic Churches so inappropriately – flexing her muscles and forcing them to follow her whims (or those of too-easily-scandalized Irish-American bishops). Rome has to show that it remembers that unity does not mean uniformity.

After Vatican II, it was thought this would change. After all, the Eastern Churches were encouraged to return to their proper patrimony and cleanse themselves of any inappropriate Latin influences. Pope Paul VI took the proposal under advisement… and there it remained, sadly, until our own time. The Congregation for Oriental Churches proposed some change in 2008, but with the objection of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to reversing the ban, exceptions were allowed only on a case-by-case basis. You started to see priests ordained back in the “traditional territory” being allowed to serve in the west. Under these “exceptional” situations, it was just this year that the U.S. saw its first married Maronite priest ordained there.

In 2010 the Synod on the Middle East again raised the issue.

Now, finally, we have the restoration of at least this one right to rites.

Catholic Patriarchs gather during the Synod on the Middle East

 

The Eastern Churches find themselves in three jurisdictional situations, basically, which have different practical consequences:

  • First, where there is a regular hierarchy, it is up to the competent ecclesiastical authority – the metropolitan, eparch, or exarch – to ordain according to the traditions of their churches, without restriction from the Latin church.
  • Second, where there is an Ordinariate without a bishop or heirarch, such ordinations would be carried out by the ordinary, but while informing the Latin hierarchy. (there are less than a half-dozen countries where this is the case)
  • Third, where there are groups of the faithful of an Eastern Church under the pastoral care of a Latin ordinary – such as the Italo-Albanians here in Italy – it continues to be a case-by-case basis.

Still, one more reform on the long list of “no-brainers” that could have been done ages ago without actually challenging either doctrine or even its articulation. It is simply the correction of an historical mistake that ought never have happened in the first place – and certainly ought not to have taken 135 years. It is this kind of thing, no matter how small, that demonstrates real “concrete progress” that the ecumenically minded – both “at home and abroad” are looking for.

Link to Magister article: http://magister.blogautore.espresso.repubblica.it/2014/11/14/francesco-da-il-passaporto-ai-preti-sposati-orientali-valido-in-tutto-il-mondo/

Church Reform Wishlist: The Eastern Catholic Churches

The Eastern Catholic Churches

  • The notion of national or proper ritual territory is archaic. Most churches have a diaspora larger than members living in their original countries. Eliminate any discrepancies between the authority of the synod and heads of the churches for their members worldwide (e.g., in the selection of bishops).
  • Eastern Catholic presbyters have not been allowed to be married in the U.S. since the late 19th century because of certain overanxious (celibate) Latin bishops at the time. This caused schism and scandal, and has lead to the current situation where there are now more married Roman Catholic priests than Eastern Catholic priests in the U.S. That ought to be corrected. [Done!: 14 November 2014]
  • All other rights of the Eastern Churches that have been impinged upon by the Latin Church should be fully restored.
  • A clarifying directive and definition from the competent ecclesial authority that the name of our communion is The Catholic Church and not the Roman Catholic Church should help in a number of confusing venues. It is already in fact the practice[1], but needs to be clearly articulated.

Vatican Pope Middle East


[1] Search the Vatican website: “Roman Catholic Church” gets 125 hits, “Catholic Church” gets over 4400. And most of the uses of “Roman Catholic” are concessions to ecumenical partners, which could be done away with now after years of growth in understanding.

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Eastern Catholics explain tradition, value of married priests

Tuesday, November 13, 2012
By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) — In Eastern Christianity — among both Catholics and Orthodox — a dual vocation to marriage and priesthood are seen as a call “to love more” and to broaden the boundaries of what a priest considers to be his family, said Russian Catholic Father Lawrence Cross.

Father Cross, a professor at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, was one of the speakers at the Chrysostom Seminar in Rome Nov. 13, a seminar focused on the history and present practice of married priests in the Eastern churches.

The Code of Canons of the Eastern (Catholic) Churches insist that “in the way they lead their family life and educate their children, married clergy are to show an outstanding example to other Christian faithful.”

Speakers at the Rome conference — sponsored by the Australian Catholic University and the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at St. Paul University in Ottawa — insisted the vocation of married priests in the Eastern churches cannot be understood apart from an understanding of the sacramental vocation of married couples.

“Those who are called to the married priesthood are, in reality, called to a spiritual path that in the first place is characterized by a conjugal, family form of life,” he said, and priestly ordination builds on the vocation they have as married men.

Father Cross and other speakers at the conference urged participants to understand the dignity of the vocation of marriage in the way Blessed John Paul II did: as a sacramental expression of God’s love and as a path to holiness made up of daily acts of self-giving and sacrifices made for the good of the other.

“Married life and family life are not in contradiction with the priestly ministry,” Father Cross said. A married man who is ordained is called “to love more, to widen his capacity to love, and the boundaries of his family are widened, his paternity is widened as he acquires more sons and daughters; the community becomes his family.”

Father Basilio Petra, an expert in Eastern Christianity and professor of theology in Florence, told the conference, “God does not give one person two competing calls.”

If the church teaches — as it does — that marriage is more than a natural institution aimed at procreation because it is “a sign and continuation of God’s love in the world,” then the vocations of marriage and priesthood “have an internal harmony,” he said.

Father Petra, who is a celibate priest, told the conference that in the last 30 or 40 years some theologians and researchers have been making a big push to “elaborate the idea that celibacy is the only way to fully configure oneself to Christ,” but such a position denies the tradition of married priests, configured to Christ, who have served the church since the time of the apostles.

Father Thomas J. Loya, a Byzantine Catholic priest and member of the Tabor Life Institute in Chicago, told the conference it would be a betrayal of Eastern tradition and spirituality to support the married priesthood simply as a practical solution to a priest shortage or to try to expand the married priesthood without, at the same time, trying to strengthen Eastern monasticism, which traditionally was the source of the celibate clergy.

He called for a renewed look at what the creation of human beings as male and female and their vocations says about God to the world.

Father Peter Galadza of the Sheptytsky Institute told conference participants that the problem of “cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose which church teachings they accept is found not just among Catholics who reject the authority of the church’s leaders; “those who believe they are faithful to the magisterium” also seem to pick and choose when it comes to the church’s official recognition of and respect for the Eastern tradition of married priests.

“We know we are only 1 percent of the world’s Catholics, but Eastern Catholics have a right to be themselves,” he said.

“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, we hope the same Holy Spirit who guided the authors of its decrees would guide us in implementing them,” he said, referring specifically to Vatican II’s affirmation of the equality of the Latin and Eastern churches and its call that Eastern churches recover their traditions.

“There has been a long history of confusing ‘Latin’ and ‘Catholic,'” he said, and that confusion has extended to an assumption that the Latin church’s general discipline of having celibate priests is better or holier than the Eastern tradition of having both married and celibate priests.

The speakers unanimously called for the universal revocation of a 1929 Vatican directive that banned the ordination and ministry of married Eastern Catholic priests outside the traditional territories of their churches. The directive, still technically in force, generally is upheld only when requested by local Latin-rite bishops.

Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
http://www.uscatholic.org/news/2012/11/eastern-catholics-explain-tradition-value-married-priests

Married Priests: Optional Celibacy among Eastern Catholics – Past and Present

Report on the Chrysostom Seminar at the Domus Australia, Rome

November 2012

Presentation Panelists with their host

Presentation Panelists with their host

Did you know that there are now more married Roman Catholic priests in the U.S. than Eastern Catholic priests?

I do not actually remember a time when I did not know that there were married Catholic presbyters, so it has always been amusing to encounter people who find this a scandal in some way. The real scandal is that Catholic Churches with a right (and a rite!) to ordain married men are not allowed to do so, basically because of 19th and 20th century anti-immigrant sentiment, in the U.S.

That was not a main theme of the conference this morning, but it was certainly an interesting fact that was new to me.

Of the varied and lively discussion, probably the main take-away theme was this: The Gospel does not coerce, but offers conversion.

In other words, conversion is a response of the heart, whereas coercion is an exercise of power. Any relationship of supposedly sister churches, say, of Rome and of Constantinople – or of New York and Parma, for that matter – which is experienced as a relationship of coercion, becomes a church-dividing issue. This came up repeatedly regarding the imposition of a Latin discipline – mandatory celibacy for diocesan presbyterate – on non-Latin churches.

Speakers for the day included:

  • Archpriest Lawrence Cross, Archpriest, Centre for Early Christian Studies, Australian Catholic University
  • Rev. Prof. Basilio Petrà, Facoltà Teologica dell’Italia Centrale (Firenze)
  • Rev. Thomas Loya, Tabor Life Institute, Chicago:
  • Protopresbyter James Dutko, Emeritus Dean of the Orthodox Seminary of Christ the Savior, PA
  • Archpriest Peter Galazda, Sheptytsky Institute, Saint Paul University, Ottawa

Archpriest Dr. Lawrence Cross spoke on “Married Clergy: At the Heart of Tradition.” Father Cross opened by stating for the record that the conference here was not a critique on the Latin practice, internally, but a protest against what he described as ‘bullying’ in some parts of the Latin Church against Eastern sister churches in communion with Rome: namely, the requirements in some places (such as the U.S.) that Eastern Catholic churches not allow married clergy because of pressure from the Latin (Roman) Catholic bishops.

Both married and celibate clergy belong to the deep tradition of the church. Though some try to point to the origins of mandatory celibacy as far back as the Council of Trullo in Spain, it is really from the 11th century Gregorian reforms – based on monasticism and coincident with a resurgence of manichaeism in the Church.

One of the results of this, much later, is the novelty, he says, of speaking of an ontological change in ordination, or an ontological configuration to Christ, as in Pastores Dabo Vobis 20, which sees married priesthood as secondary. One US Cardinal, he did not name, has referred to the ontological change of priesthood as analogous to the Incarnation or transubstantiation.  The problem with the analogy is that the humanity of Christ is unchanged!  Trying to assert an essential link between priesthood and celibacy, something which has been relatively recent in its effort, is problematic.

Indeed, there is no celibacy per se, in the Eastern tradition, just married or monastic life. Both require community, and vows to commit one to that community. The Code of Canons of the Eastern Church 374-5 highlights to mutual blessing that marriage and ordination offer to each other. He wonder why Pope John Paul II, who seemed to have such a high respect for the “primordial sacrament” did not see fit to apply it to the presbyterate.

Professor Basilio Petrà of the Theological Faculty of Central Italy (in Firenze), spoke on the topic of “Married Priests: A Divine Vocation.” Two immediate thoughts he shared were that the Catholic Church has always, officially at least, affirmed married priesthood, and to consider that vocation is always a call of the community and not of the individual. Marriage and priesthood are two separate callings, but both sacraments and therefore complementary not competitive.

Fr. Petrà drew attention to the recent apostolic exhortation, Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, which included this paragraph:

48. Priestly celibacy is a priceless gift of God to his Church, one which ought to be received with appreciation in East and West alike, for it represents an ever timely prophetic sign. Mention must also be made of the ministry of married priests, who are an ancient part of the Eastern tradition. I would like to encourage those priests who, along with their families, are called to holiness in the faithful exercise of their ministry and in sometimes difficult living conditions. To all I repeat that the excellence of your priestly life will doubtless raise up new vocations which you are called to cultivate.

While he emphasized the positive nature of the bishop of Rome including the married priesthood as a respected and ancient tradition in the east, it is interesting to note that while celibacy is a priceless gift of God” which “ought to be received in East and West alike,” married priesthood is not categorized as a gift of god but “a part of the tradition” and only in “the East.”

Father Thomas Loya of the Tabor Life Institute in Chicago, and a regular part of EWTN programming, presented on the topic,  “Celibacy and the Married Priesthood: Rediscovering the Spousal Mystery.” Married priesthood witnesses to the Catholic tradition of a life that is ‘both-and’ rather than ‘either-or.’ We need a more integrated approach to monasticism and marriage, and relocating celibacy in its proper monastic context. But the continued practice of requiring eastern Catholic churches to defer to the Latin church hierarchy with respect to married clergy is to act as though the Latin Church is the real Catholic Church and the eastern churches are add-ons – fodder for accusations of uniatism if ever there was.

One of the clear problems of this was that when, in 1929, celibacy was imposed upon eastern churches in the US and elsewhere, married priesthood was part of the strength of these churches. Since then vocations have disappeared, evangelization has all but ceased, and the general life of the churches has withered. After “kicking this pillar of ecclesial life out from under the churches” it offered nothing to hold them up in its place, and the Church is still suffering.

Can you imagine a better seedbed for presbyteral vocations than a presbyteral family? What better way for a woman to know what it would be like to marry a priest than to be the daughter of a priest?

Married priesthood is part of the structure of the Church, but celibacy always belonged to the monasteries. Without a monastic connection, a celibate priest is in a dangerous situation, lacking the vowed relationship of either marriage or monastic life to balance the call to work. Every celibate must be connected to a monastery in some way.

Just as a celibate monastic must be a good husband to the church and community, so too must a married couple be good monastics. The relationship of monasticism and marriage ought to be two sides of the same coin and mutually enriching. The call to service in ordained ministry comes from these two relationships to serve. This would be a sign of an integrated and healthy church.

Protopresbyter James Dutko is retired academic dean and rector of the Orthodox Seminary of Christ the Savior in Johnstown, PA. His topic was “Mandatory Celibacy among Eastern Catholics: A Church-Dividing Issue.” Father Dutko was the only Orthodox presenter on the panel (and the only one without a beard, incidentally…) The bottom line? As long as the Latin Church (that is the Roman Catholic Church) imposes its particular practice on other Churches even within its own communion, there will be no ecumenical unity. Stop the Latinization, and the Eastern Orthodox may be more inclined to restore full communion.

Prayer for Christian Unity?

One of the most well advertised annual events during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Rome has nothing to do with ecumenism.

At least, not explicitly.

Every night at 8:00pm during the WPCU, there is a liturgy at Santa Maria in Via Lata, just off the Via del Corso. Instead of inviting in the Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant communities in Rome to lead worship in rotation, every one of these liturgies is Catholic. The unique aspect of the series, however, is that each is celebrated according to a different liturgical rite, sponsored by different of the Churches sui iuris that make up the Catholic communion.

It is a great idea, but the question is whether it is appropriate for the week of prayer that is meant to focus on the restoration of unity with other Christians. Is it a celebration of the unity-in-diversity that already exists in a real but imperfect way in the Catholic Church? Does it smack of uniatism, or of Catholic imperialism? Is it enough to remind Roman Catholics that not all Catholics are Roman, that we do not all do things the same way, and therefore demonstrate a fundamental principle of ecumenism – that unity does not mean uniformity?

This year’s schedule includes most of the major liturgical traditions – though the East Syrian, or Assyrian/Chaldean rite is notably absent for some reason:

  • January 18: Byzantine Rite, Greek Catholic Church
    (organized by the Pontifical Greek College)
  • January 19: Byzantine Rite, Ukrainian Catholic Church
    (organized by the Basilian Fathers of St. Giosafat)
  • January 20: Byzantine Rite, Romanian Catholic Church
    (organized by the Pontifical Romanian College)
  • January 21: Maronite Rite, Maronite Catholic Church
    (organized by the Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
  • January 22: Latin Rite, Roman Catholic Church
    (presided by Archbishop Piero Marini)
  • January 23: West-Syrian Rite, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
    (organized by the Pontifical Damascene College)
  • January 24: Armenian Rite, Armenian Catholic Church
    (organized by the Pontifical Armenian College)
  • January 25: Ge’ez Rite, Ethiopian Catholic Church
    (organized by the Pontifical Ethiopian College)

First, I have to say it is a great opportunity to celebrate the liturgical diversity of the Catholic Church. In a way it recalls Bl. John XXIII’s decision to open Vatican II in the Ambrosian Rite rather than in the Roman – a reminder that there is always more than one way to be Catholic.

It is also helpful for us Latins to remember that the Catholic Church is actually catholic, and not simply an extension of Latin-Roman/Western culture. All Roman Catholics are Catholic, but not all Catholics are Roman Catholic.

(It should go without saying the ecumenically obvious statement that not all catholics are Catholic, either, but that does not merit calling all Catholics ‘Roman Catholic’. Capisce?)

One caveat is that it can reduce the respective churches of the Catholic communion merely to their liturgical patrimony, as if the Catholic Church simply enjoys liturgical diversity in a single monolithic ecclesial entity, rather than in fact being a communion of churches.

Another is that such a celebration during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity could communicate an unintended model of unity, some kind of liturgical uniatism – or, as one my first ecumenical dialogue partners, an avid Trekkie, would put it, this model makes the Catholic Church out to be the Borg, with a simple message: “Your patrimony will be absorbed and added to our own. Resistance is futile.”

Certainly, that is not ecumenism according to the Catholic Church. (Though there is at least a hint of receptivity!)

Nevertheless, it is a celebration of Christian Unity – to be precise, of Catholic unity – to be able to celebrate the same Eucharistic mystery in such varied and ancient liturgical traditions, all of which are found within the Catholic Church. It just is not the kind of Christian Unity, or not the whole scope of the kind of unity, envisioned by the Week of Prayer.

It might be more fitting, however, if the week included Anglican, Protestant, and Orthodox Eucharistic liturgies, in which it is precisely our inability to share communion that compels us to strive for the unity for which Christ himself prays. Or let us celebrate the rich diversity of the Catholic communion in the same manner, but in a different week: perhaps the Pentecost octave. Then at least we would have time to participate in both!

 

Syro-Malankara Catholic bishops at the Angelicum

The bishops of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church were in Rome this week for their ad limina visit “to the threshold” of the shrines of Peter and Paul, and to meet with their successor, Benedict XVI. There are a total of 13 of them, including the Major Archbishop-Catholicos, symbolically representative of Christ and the Twelve. (Also symbolizing Christ and the Twelve are the distinctive headcovering with thirteen stitched crosses, one large and twelve small.)

The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church has about 500,000 members, predominately in Kerala state, India. It follows the west-Syrian Rite and the liturgy of St. James of Jerusalem, and forms part of the Thomas Christians who trace their initial evangelization to the Apostle Thomas in about the year 52 AD. From at least the 8th century, the Metropolitan of the autonomous Thomas Christian Church was a hierarch in the Assyrian Church of the East, their closest ecclesiastical neighbors. The Thomas Christians held that communion was maintained, if communication lost, with the Catholic/Orthodox world until the arrival of Tridentine-era Portuguese missionaries at the end of the 15th century, who began a program of Latinization. Resistance to the imposition of western culture and ecclesiology culminated in 1653, the symbolic date for the breaking of communion and the eventual breaking of the once-unified Christian Church in India into its current situation, divided among those in communion with the Assyrian Church of the East, the Syrian Orthodox Church, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church (Anglican), the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. The latter traces its origin to the corporate reunion of some Malankara Orthodox Syrian bishops and faithful starting in 1930.

The bishops met with Pope Benedict XVI this morning, and this afternoon were gathered at the Angelicum for a lecture offered by one of their number, Bishop Thomas Mar Anthonios, entitled, “New Evangelization: The Mission and Role of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church”. The text is basically a synopsis of the lineamenta prepared for the first-ever Major Archiepiscopal Assembly scheduled for later this year. Thiers will be the first episcopal conference or church sui iuris to address the theme of the New Evangelization in plenary.

Before the beginning of the lecture, His Beatitude Major Archbishop Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis greeted the assembled students and guests, and made a special point to recognize his dissertation director, Fr. Fred Bliss, SM, from his days as an Angelicum student. As I sat surrounded almost entirely by Indian Catholics, the chanted prayer that began the seminar was one of the more moving spiritual moments I’ve experienced in recent weeks (I am not even sure if it was Hindi or one of the other languages, such as Tamil or Malayalam, I should ask).

Questions and challenges to be addressed in the new evangelization noted by Bishop Thomas included the relationship of evangelization and interreligious dialogue, individualism and secular culture (referred to as a “darkness”), the success of genuine inculturation, the necessity of Christian unity for effective evangelization, and the obstacles to freedom placed before the church both by the Indian state and the Roman curia (an issue which we were assured Pope Benedict had promised this morning to take under serious consideration). Pastoral lethargy was also noted as a challenge, “Communities should be shaken from their present slumber of maintenance to a renewed consciousness of mission.”

[The text of the Holy Father’s address to the bishops can be found at Vatican Radio here]

Chanted Prayer with Syro-Malankara bishops

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