Every second Saturday of the month, Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ.
4pm Divine Liturgy. Next: 13th November 2021

Very sadly, the Divine Liturgy in English at 9-30 am on Sundays at the Holy Family Cathedral, Lower Church, have had to be put on hold. Until the practicalities we cannot use the Lower Church space. Hopefully this will be resolved very soon. Please keep checking in here for details.

Owing to public health guidance, masks should still be worn indoors and distance maintained. Sanitisers are available. Holy Communion is distributed in both kinds from the mixed and common chalice, by means of a separate Communion spoon for each individual communicant.

To purchase The Divine Liturgy: an Anthology for Worship (in English), order from the Sheptytsky Institute here, or the St Basil's Bookstore here.

To purchase the Divine Praises, the Divine Office of the Byzantine-Slav rite (in English), order from the Eparchy of Parma here.

The new catechism in English, Christ our Pascha, is available from the Eparchy of the Holy Family and the Society. Please email johnchrysostom@btinternet.com for details.

Monday 30 January 2012

UK - Book on Good Catholic and Oriental Orthodox Relations released

January 25 2012

Catholic and Oriental Orthodox church leaders are encouraging unity between the two, as society grows increasingly hostile to religion, reports CNA.
"We're facing serious threats of increased secularism a marginalization of religion in general and Christianity in particular," said Coptic Orthodox Bishop Angaelos. "As members of first-century churches we really need to both live and introduce people to the wealth, meaning and value of what it means to witness and live our Christianity today," he stressed.

On Jan. 23, Bishop Angaelos and the Catholic Archbishop of Southwark Kevin McDonald met in London to release the book, "Joint Statements between the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox Churches." Both leaders are co-chairmen of the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum, whose members compiled the statements in an effort to increase awareness on Catholic and Oriental Orthodox similarities, rather than differences.

The book includes remarks by Pope Benedict XVI as well as leaders from the Syrian, Coptic and Armenian Orthodox Churches. Its release comes during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which runs from Jan. 18-25, and is being observed by over 300 churches and Christian communities around the world. "It's very easy to become theoretical about theology forget that we are talking about our faith in the incar Word, in salvation, and in the presence of God," Bisho Angaelos remarked at the event. "We forget to speak in communion of what we can have in common." Bishop Angaelos gave the example of the time he sent a letter of support to the Catholic Church when it refused to facilitate adoptions for same-sex couples in the U.K as both churches hold the same views against it.

"When you're in a dialogue, it's not about compromise, its about reaching deeply into the biblical routes in such a way that convergence can be developed," Archbishop McDonald said. "The purpose of publishing this book is precisely to engage people in this process at a local, grass-root level." "We're not talking about agreed statements from theologians that have yet to be ratified," he said. "We talking about agreed statements to which the Catholic Church is already committed."

Bishop Angaelos observed that these "differences will be resolved because Christ makes one promise about one flock and one shepherd and we will be unified one day. He noted upcoming global events in the U.K., such as the 2012 summer Olympics and Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee of 60 years on the throne, as times when the churches should speak with "a very clear Christian voice."

If "our faithful don't see us working together, it's pointless to preach about love, forgiveness and acceptance from the pulpits," Bishop Angaelos said. He also hopes to hold shared prayer gatherings between the two churches in the future and to involve more locals.

Saturday 28 January 2012

Bishop Siluan of the Romanian Orthodox Church: Dialogue Gaining Ground

Interview by H. Sergio Mora, ROME, JAN. 26, 2012 thanks to Zenit.org.

A Romanian Orthodox bishop ministering in Italy says that ecumenical dialogue is taking great steps forward, particularly at the grassroots level.

This was the assertion made by Bishop Siluan Span when he spoke with ZENIT after Wednesday's celebration of Vespers at St. Paul Outside the Walls. Benedict XVI led the liturgy, and with it, closed the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The bishop of the Romanian Orthodox diocese for Italy and member of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church reflected on how things are changing.

ZENIT: What is the situation of ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox?
Bishop Siluan: I believe, despite voices that say that the ecumenical dialogue is in crisis, that in the last 15 years Christians of Eastern Europe -- we are talking of Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, but in particular of the countries that are in the European Union -- having the possibility and the willingness to leave, made contact with the reality of all the Western countries. We must say that the Catholic Church in Italy, Spain and other countries manifested an openness and willingness to help, which was much appreciated by the Churches of the East, by the Orthodox Church.

ZENIT: What kind of relationships have been created?
Bishop Siluan: I speak for the Romanian Orthodox Church and I see that different relations have developed from those of the past. In the sense that the Romanian cleaning lady meets an Italian family in its reality. It is a grassroots ecumenism which was never the case before. The Italian family entrusts to her not only the grandmother or grandfather, but also the children. And when the elderly woman prays at night, she asks the Romanian Orthodox cleaning lady to read the Liturgy of the Hours to her. They go to church together and I see that they commend to me names so that we will pray for the persons they look after.

ZENIT: Hence, in daily life!
Bishop Siluan: This prayer for one another, this, let's say domestic faith, is a beginning of closeness and of dialogue that is more profound than that of the high-level commissions. This is also true of the relationship between our parish priests and the Catholics who house the greater part of our communities in Italy. It is a very important dialogue between the different communities, because, for example, in some churches the Catholic community prays in the early morning and the Orthodox at 10 or 11 o'clock. We see the presence of Italians at the baptism of children and in our churches. Moreover, there are so many mixed marriages, between Romanian men and Italian women and vice versa. Hence, it is a sort of dialogue without precedents.

ZENIT: What was determinant for this change?
Bishop Siluan: It must be said that during Communism, Romania could not have a dialogue of this kind. There was a representative who went out once or twice a year and who did not have the liberty to say what he wished to say. Hence, in these 15 to 20 years, unprecedented relations were created.

ZENIT: This is clear at the horizontal level, but between the religious?
Bishop Siluan: Although there are places and moments in which the dialogue is in crisis, relations undoubtedly matured. I see the meetings with Catholic monks, priests and bishops whom I met 20 years ago, in my case in France. Today we meet as old time friends. There is no mistrust when we meet for the first time, not only between brothers but also between clerics. We had learned about one another only in books and notebooks, with a rather critical attitude. Thus it wasn't easy to break in, but little by little we began to know individuals, to talk, to meet and to share what we could. It is essential to share, food for example. It helps to overcome the mistrust that could not be eliminated by theological argumentations.

[Translation by ZENIT]

Friday 27 January 2012

Homily to conclude the Week of Prayer: Pope Benedict

Thanks to Zenit.org, here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave on Wednesday 25th January 2012 at Vespers on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The celebration closed the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Dear brothers and sisters!

It is with great joy that I address a warm greeting to all of you who are gathered in this basilica on the liturgical fest of the Conversion of St. Paul to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in this year in which we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II, which Blessed John XXIII announced here in this basilica on Jan. 25, 1959. The theme offered for our meditation during the Week of Prayer that we are concluding today is: "We Will All Be Changed By the Victory of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58).

The meaning of this mysterious transformation, of which the second short reading this evening speaks, is marvelously shown in the event of St. Paul. Following the extraordinary happening on the road to Damascus, Saul, who distinguished himself by the zeal with which he persecuted the young Church, was transformed into an indefatigable apostle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the event of this extraordinary evangelizer it is clear that such a change is not the result of a long interior reflection nor the fruit of a personal effort. It is first of all the work of the grace of God operating in its inscrutable way. This is why Paul, writing to Corinth some years after his conversion, states, as we heard in the first reading of these vespers: "By the grace of God … I am what I am, and his grace in me has not been ineffective" (1 Corinthians 15:10). Moreover, considering the event of St. Paul we understand that the transformation that he experienced in his existence was n ot limited to the ethical dimension -- as a conversion from immorality to morality -- nor to the intellectual dimension -- as change in his way of seeing reality -- but it is a matter rather of a radical renewal in his own being, similar in many aspects to a rebirth. Such a transformation has its foundation in the participation in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it is delineated as a gradual journey of conformation to Christ. In light of this awareness, St. Paul, when he will later be called to defend the legitimacy of his apostolic vocation and the Gospel that he proclaimed, will say: "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And this life that I live in the body I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20).

The personal experience lived by St. Paul allowed him to await with a reasonable hope for the fulfillment of this mystery of transformation, which will affect all those who have believed in Jesus Christ and all humanity and the whole of creation as well. In the second short reading that was proclaimed this evening, St. Paul, after having developed a long argument aimed at reinforcing hope of the resurrection in the faithful, using the traditional images of the contemporary apocalyptic literature, describes in a few lines the great day of the final judgment in which the destiny of humanity is met: "In an instant, the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the last trumpet ... the dead will rise uncorrupted and we will be transformed" (1 Corinthians 15:52). On that day, all believers will be conformed to Christ and all that is mortal will be transformed by his glory: "It is necessary, in fact," says St. Paul, "that this corruptible body be clothed in incorruptibility and that this mortal body be clothed in immortality" (15:53). Then the triumph of Christ will finally be complete, because, St. Paul continues, showing how the ancient prophecies of the Scriptures will be realized, death will be definitively vanquished and, with it, sin that brought death into the world and the Law that determines sin without giving the power to overcome it: "Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? Death is the sting of sin and the Law is the power of sin" (15:54-56). St. Paul tells us, thus, that every man, through baptism in the death and resurrection of Christ, participates in the victory of him who first defeated death, opening a path of transformation that is manifested from thence in a newness of life and that will reach its goal in the fullness of time.

It is quite significant that the passage concludes with a thanksgiving: "May thanks be given to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (15:57). The canticle of victory over death becomes a canticle of gratitude lifted up to the Victor. We too this evening, celebrating the evening praises of God, would like to join our voices, our minds and our hearts to this hymn of thanksgiving for what divine grace has worked in the Apostle of the Gentiles and through the wondrous salvific design of God the Father has accomplished in us through the Lord Jesus Christ. As we lift up our prayer, we are confident that we too will be transformed and conformed to Christ's image. This is particularly true for the prayer for the unity of Christians. When we in fact implore the gift of unity of Christ's disciples, we make our own the desire expressed by Jesus Christ in the prayer to the Father on the eve of his passion and death: "that all may be one" (John 17:21). For this r eason, the prayer for the unity of Christians is nothing other than a participation in the realization of the divine plan for the Church, and the active commitment to the re-establishment of unity is a duty and a great responsibility for all.

Despite experiencing in our days the painful situation of division, we Christians can and must look to the future with hope insofar as the victory of Christ means the overcoming of all that prevents us from sharing the fullness of life with him and with others. Jesus Christ's resurrection confirms that the goodness of God defeats evil; love overcomes death. He accompanies us in the struggle against the destructive force of sin that damages humanity and the entire creation of God. The presence of the risen Christ calls all of us Christians to act together in the cause of the good. United to Christ we are called to share his mission, which is that of bringing hope where injustice, hatred and desperation dominate. Our divisions dim the luminousness of our witness to Christ. The goal of complete unity that we await in active hope and that we pray for with confidence, is not a secondary victory but has importance for the good of the human family.

In today's dominant culture the idea of victory is often associated with an immediate success. In the Christian perspective, however, victory is a long -- and in the eyes of us men -- not an always linear process of transformation and growth in the good. It happens in God's timeframes, not ours, and it demands of us a profound faith and patient perseverance. If it is true that the Kingdom of God definitively irrupts in history in the resurrection of Jesus, it is still not fully realized. The final victory will happen only with the Lord's second coming, which we await with patient hope. Even our expectation of the Church's visible unity must be patient and confident. Our daily prayer and efforts for the unity of Christians have their meaning only in such a disposition. The attitude of patient waiting does not entail passivity or resignation but a prompt and attentive response to every possibility of communion and fraternity that the Lord grants us.

In this spiritual climate I would like to offer some special greetings, in the first place to Cardinal Monterisi, archpriest of this basilica, to the abbot and the community of Benedictine monks who host us. I greet Cardinal Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and to all the members of this dicastery. I offer my cordial and fraternal greetings to his Eminence the Metropolitan Gennadios, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and the Reverend Canon Richardson, personal representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to all the representatives of the various Churches and ecclesial Communities gathered here this evening.

I entrust to the intercession of St. Paul all of those who with their prayer and their work commit themselves to the cause of the unity of Christians. Even if we can at times have the impression that the road toward complete re-establishment of communion is still very long and full of obstacles, I invite everyone to renew their determination to continue, with courage and generosity, the unity willed by God, following St. Paul's example, who, in the face of difficulties of every sort always maintained firm confidence in God, who brings his work to completion. After all, along this journey there are not lacking positive signs of a rediscovered fraternity and of a shared sense of responsibility before the great problems that afflict humanity. All of this is reason for joy and great hope and must encourage us to continue our commitment to arrive together at the final goal, knowing that our toil is not in vain in the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58). Amen.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

Monday 23 January 2012

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Pope Benedict's Angelus Address

This is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave on Sunday 22 January 2012 at the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

Dear brothers and sisters!

This Sunday falls in the middle of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is celebrated from the 18th to the 25th of January. I cordially invite everyone to join themselves to the prayer that Jesus addressed to the Father on the eve of his passion: "That they may be one so that the world may believe" (John 17:21).

This year in particular our meditation during the week of prayer for unity turns to a passage from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians with which the motto was formed: "We Will All Be Changed By the Victory of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58). We are called to contemplate the victory of Christ over sin and over death, that is, his resurrection, as an event that radically transforms those who believe in him and opens to them the way to an incorruptible and immortal life. Recognizing and welcoming the transformative power of faith in Jesus Christ sustains Christians even in the pursuit of full unity with each other.

This year the aids for the week of prayer for unity were prepared by a Polish group. In fact, Poland has known a long history of courageous struggles against various adversities and has repeatedly given proof of great determination, animated by faith. For this reason the words of the theme mentioned above [for this week of prayer] have a resonance and special incisiveness for Poland. In the course of the centuries the Polish Christians have spontaneously intuited a spiritual dimension in their desire for freedom and understood that the true victory can occur only if it is accompanied by a profound interior transformation. They remind us that our search for unity can be conducted in a realistic manner if change first of all happens in us and if we let God act, if we let ourselves be transformed in Christ's image, if we enter into the new life of Christ, which is the true victory. The visible unity of all Christians is always a work that comes from above, from God, a work th at requires the humility to recognize our weakness and to accept the gift. However, to use the expression that Blessed Pope John Paul II repeated often, every gift also becomes a task. The unity that comes from God therefore demands our daily commitment to open ourselves up to each other in charity.

For many decades, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has constituted a central element in the Church's ecumenical activity. The time that we dedicate to prayer for the full communion of Christ's disciples permits us to understand more deeply how we will be transformed by his victory, by the power of his resurrection. Next Wednesday, as is customary, we will conclude the week of prayer with the solemn celebration of vespers for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, at which representatives of the other Christian Churches and Communities will also be present. Many people will attend the gathering to renew together our prayer to the Lord, who is the source of unity. We entrust it now, with filial confidence, to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.

In English he said:

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Angelus. This week, Christians throughout the world mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. We are confident that, as Saint Paul says, "We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58). Let us renew our prayer for the unity of all of Christ's followers, and deepen our resolve to be one in him. Upon each of you and your loved ones at home, I invoke God's blessings of peace and joy.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Understanding Christian Unity on the Feast of SS Cyril & Methodius, Co-Patrons of Europe

Report by H. Sergio Mora with Cardinal Franc Rodé, ROME, FEB. 16, 2012, thanks to Zenit.org

Sts. Cyril and Methodius, of Byzantine origin and culture, preached and carried out a mission of inculturation of the Gospel in Slavic lands. They were held up as a model in a Mass celebrated on Tuesday in St. Clement's Church in Rome.

Cardinal Franc Rodé, retired prefect of the Congregation for Consecrated Life, commented on the example of Saints Cyril and Methodius after the Mass he celebrated together with the Greek-Catholic bishop of Bratislava, Peter Rusnak; Archbishop Cyril Vasil, secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches; and the future auxiliary bishop of Bratislava, Josef Halko.

The Mass was in the Roman rite, but used the polyphonic singing and ceremonial of Eastern character. This annual celebration is organized in turn by the Pontifical Croatian, Slovenian, Czech and Slovak Colleges. This year it was the turn of the Slovak College, with the assistance of the Pontifical Nepomuceno College.

St. Cyril lived in the 9th century. He was active in the evangelization of Pannonia and Moravia, and invented an alphabet known today as the Cyrillic alphabet. Methodius was his brother. Both are venerated by the Catholic Church as well as the Orthodox.

Example of fidelity

In comments made to ZENIT, Cardinal Rodé highlighted the importance "of the example of Cyril and Methodius, who despite the tensions between the Church of Constantinople and that of Rome, demonstrated that one could be of Byzantine culture while recognizing the supreme authority of Peter." To the extent that, "despite the existing tensions Popes Adrian II and John VII recognized their cultural project."

The cardinal recalled that at the time of Cyril and Methodius the Church was suffering from internal tensions. Moreover, the two brothers arrived in a Slavic territory where various political interests collided.

They spread the word of the Gospel, preached and written in the Slav language. Their arrival in local villages was considered dangerous by those who wanted to control the territory for themselves.

Cardinal Rodé recalled that last year Benedict XVI evoked Cyril and Methodius in an address in which he praised their great patience and dignity in coping with the difficulties they met. That is why, "the Slav peoples have great love for these two great apostles and this has stayed in the collective memory," continued the cardinal.

Despite the number of difficulties "their holiness is manifested in their sincere love for a less well-educated people as compared to the great, refined, superior civilization of Byzantium. They entered into this less evolved world where the villages received them with great love. Cyril and Methodius wanted to bring Christ and his message close, so that it could be received not as a foreign word, but as a familiar, homey word that reaches the heart."

Opportunity for unity

Cyril and Methodius, "are a great opportunity to understand unity: sons of Byzantium, of Byzantine culture, they worked in complete agreement with the Successor of Peter. They asked the Pope of Rome for his approval of their project of evangelization and inculturation of the Gospel in the Slav territory, mentality and language."

Moreover, the cardinal pointed out, "they also, therefore, are of cultural importance as they are at the origin of the literature of the Slav peoples."

His Eminence specified: "We have seen this diversity here also today. There were bishops of the Eastern rite, priests of so many different nations, where diversity in the unity of faith, recognition of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the apostolic succession do not constitute a problem."

Positive elements of cultures

The Church does not want uniformity and she recognizes the different traditions, mentality, spirituality, as well as, recently, the authenticity of certain elements of the Anglican Communion. Thus the Church recognizes the positive elements that are genuinely Christian, evangelical, of the different cultures, whether Slav or of other Eastern Churches, such as the Armenian, Maronite, Chaldean, etc., the cardinal added.

Ecumenism "cannot be forced; impatience can even harm the idea of the ecumenical project," he stressed. "Let us leave it to God, to the Lord, to unite us when and how He wishes."

Wednesday 4 January 2012

The Eastern Catholic Church in Contemporary Europe: Conference

Centre for Eastern Christianity, Heythrop College - 18-19 January 2012 
 18 January from 10 am in the the Marie Eugenie Room
  • Introduction Anthony O’Mahony and Lucian Leustean
  • The Slovak Greek Church Simon Marincak
  • The Romanian Greek Catholic Church Lucian Leustean and Ciprian Ghisa
  • The Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church Daniela Kalkandijeva
  • The Armenian Catholic Church in contemporary Europe John Whooley
  • Eastern Byzantine Catholicism in Greece and Turkey  Anthony O’Mahony
19 January from 10 am in the the Marie Eugenie Room
  • Eastern Catholics in Georgia John Flannery
  • Eastern Catholicism in Russia  Stefanie High-Donovan
  • The Eastern Catholic Diaspora in contemporary Europe: context and challenges Robin Gibbons
  • The Italian Albanians: the Greek Catholic (Byzantine) Church in modern Italy Anthony O’Mahony
  • Plenary Discussion
From 5.15-6.45 in the Chapel of Maria Assunta
  • Melkite Greek Catholic Liturgy in the Chapel By kind permission of the Sisters of the Assumption

The Eastern Catholic Churches are a significant expression of the diversity of Catholicism in the modern world. Situated between two branches of Christianity, the Eastern and the Roman Catholic, they are to be found in Europe, the Middle East and India and as a growing diaspora community in North/South America and Australia. Eastern Catholicism in Europe is an important marker of the contemporary religious identity of the continent. Often referred to as ‘Churches in-between’, they have a distinct ecclesial, religious and social identity in Europe today. The frontiers of the West are often religious borders with Eastern Christendom; it is not without significance that it is a German pontiff Benedict XVI who, conscious that the future of Christianity in the new emerging Europe will depend upon a rapprochement between Eastern and Western Churches as the political and economic union of the continent marches eastwards. Predominately Eastern Orthodox states such as Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and Romania are now part of the EU, and many other states have significant Eastern Christians communities, and in particular Eastern Catholic minorities which together number some millions, as for example in Albania, Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Turkey, and the Ukraine.

The Italian historian Roberto Morozzo della Rocca, has characterized their situation thus: ‘The History of the Eastern Catholic churches in Europe in the twentieth century suffers from the consequences of their geographical location on the boundaries of different civilizations and in areas of bitter ethnic and ideological conflicts. In the first half of the twentieth century, the Greek-Catholic churches endeavoured to safeguard their identity in the clash of nations and the types of nationalism which characterized the lands in which they existed. On the other hand, in the second half of the century, they resisted the harsh treatment, confronting the desire for the annihilation and the persecutions carried out by the communist regimes against Catholicism and especially Eastern-rite Catholicism. The destiny of Greek Catholics in the Europe of the “brief century” is marked by great suffering and tenacious struggles for survival in really difficult historical contexts’.

The Conference will explore the various ecclesial and religious contexts of Eastern Catholicism in modern history and contemporary contexts from a wide range of perspectives. The proceedings of the Conference, together with other papers not presented, will be published as ‘Eastern Catholic Christianity in Contemporary Europe’, 1st November 2012 by Routledge, London, in the Routledge Contemporary Russia and Eastern Europe Series. http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415699129/

Registration is required and a contribution of £20 towards the Centre’s costs is payable on the day. Meals are not included but may be purchased in the College Restaurant.

Registration and enquiries: j.flannery@heythrop.ac.uk

Heythrop College, University of London, Kensington Square, London W8 5HN.

The Patriarch of the West: Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox Perspectives on Ecclesiology; Day Conference

Centre for Eastern Christianity, Heythrop College, University of London
Wednesday 21 March 2012, 2.00-6.00
Speakers to include
  • Peter Petkoff, Fellow of Regent's Park College, Oxford
  • Revd Charles Miller, Rector of Abingdon
  • Anthony O'Mahony, Director, Centre for Eastern Christianity, Reader in Theology and the History of Christianity Heythrop College, University of London

Sunday 1 January 2012

Pope's Address to Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Ecumenism

"The Centre of True Ecumenism Is ... the Faith in Which Man Encounters the Truth"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 30, 2012, thanks to Zenit.org

Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Friday at the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Lord Cardinals,
venerable brothers in the episcopate and priesthood,
dear brothers and sisters!

It is always a joy for me to meet with you on the occasion of your plenary session and to express my appreciation for the service that you undertake for the Church and especially for the Successor of Peter in his office of confirming the brethren in faith (cf. Luke 22:32). I thank Cardinal Levada for his cordial address of greeting in which he recalled some important tasks discharged by the dicastery in recent years. And I am particularly grateful to the Congregation for its work with the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization in preparing the Year of Faith, recognizing in it a propitious moment for re-proposing to all the gift of faith in the risen Christ, the luminous teaching of Vatican Council II and the precious doctrinal synthesis offered by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

As we know, in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of being extinguished, like a flame that has lost its fuel. We are facing a profound crisis of faith, a loss of the religious sense, that constitutes the Church's greatest challenge today. The renewal of faith, then, must be the priority in the work of the whole Church in our time. It is my wish that the Year of Faith contribute, with the cordial collaboration of all of the People of God, to making God present again in this world and to opening to men the way to faith, to entrusting themselves to that God who loved us to the end (cf. John 13:1), in Jesus Christ crucified and risen. The theme of the unity of Christians is closely connected to this task. I would therefore like to reflect on some doctrinal aspects that regard the Church's ecumenical path, which has been the object of deep reflection during this plenary session, coinciding with the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In fact, the s pirit of ecumenical work must begin with that "spiritual ecumenism," with that "soul of the whole ecumenical movement" ("Unitatis redintegratio," 8), which is found in the spirit of prayer that "all may be one" (John 17:21).

The consistency of the ecumenical task with the teaching of Vatican II and with the whole tradition has been one of the areas to which the Congregation, in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has given its attention. Today we can observe that many good fruits have been produced from ecumenical dialogues but we must also note that the risk of a false irenicism and of an indifferentism, that is completely alien to the mind of Vatican II, require our vigilance. This indifferentism is caused by the opinion, which continues to spread, that truth is not accessible to man and that it is thus necessary to limit ourselves to finding rules for a praxis that would be capable of improving the world. And in this way the faith would be replaced by a moralism without any deep foundation. The center of true ecumenism is instead the faith in which man encounters the truth that is revealed in the Word of God. Without the faith the whole ecumenical moveme nt would be reduced to a form of "social contract" that is agreed to because of a common interest, a "praxeology" aimed at creating a better world. The logic of Vatican II is completely different: the pursuit of the complete unity of Christians is a dynamism animated by the Word of God, by the divine Truth that speaks to us in this Word.

The crucial problem, which cuts across ecumenical dialogues, is therefore the question of the structure of revelation -- the relation between sacred Scripture, the living Tradition of the Church and the office of the successors of the Apostles as witness to the true faith: and here the theme of ecclesiology, which is a part of this issue, is implicit: how God's truth reaches us. The discernment between Tradition with a capital "T" and traditions, among other things, is fundamental here. I do not wish to enter into details but only to make an observation. An important step in such a discernment was accomplished in the preparation and application of provisions for groups of faithful coming from Anglicanism, who desire to enter into full communion with the Church, into the unity of the common and essential divine Tradition, maintaining their own spiritual, liturgical and pastoral traditions, which are in conformity with the Catholic faith (cf. "Anglicanorum coetibus," art. II I). There exists, in fact, a spiritual richness in the different Christian confessions, which is the expression of the one faith and a gift to share and discover together in the Tradition of the Church.

Today, then, one of the fundamental questions has to do with the problem of the appropriate methods in various ecumenical dialogues. These too must reflect the priority of faith. Knowing the truth is the right of every interlocutor in true dialogue. It is the demand of charity itself for our brother. In this sense, it is necessary even to face controversial questions and to do so with courage, always in the spirit of fraternity and reciprocal respect. It is important, moreover, to offer a correct interpretation of that "order or 'hierarchy' of truths in Catholic doctrine" spoken of by the decree "Unitatis redintegratio" (n. 11), which does not in any way mean reducing the deposit of faith, but making its internal organic structure emerge. The study documents produced by various ecumenical dialogues also have great relevance. Such texts cannot be ignored since they constitute an important fruit, even if provisional, of common reflection that has developed over the years. Nonetheless, their proper significance must be recognized as contributions offered to the competent Authority of the Church, who alone is called to judge them in a definitive way. To ascribe to such texts a binding or almost conclusive weight in thorny questions of dialogue without the necessary evaluation by the ecclesial Authority would, in the final analysis, not help the path toward full unity in the faith.

A last question that I would like finally to mention is the issue of morality, which is a new challenge for the ecumenical journey. In dialogues we cannot ignore the great moral questions about human life, the family, sexuality, bioethics, freedom, justice and peace. It will be important to speak on these topics with one voice, drawing from the foundation of Scripture and the living tradition of the Church. This tradition helps us to decipher the language of the Creator in his creation. Defending fundamental values of the great tradition of the Church, we defend man, we defend creation.

In concluding these reflections, I hope for the Congregation's close and fraternal collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity with the goal of effectively promoting the re-establishment of complete unity among Christians. Division among Christians, in fact, "is not only openly opposed to the will of Christ, but it is also a scandal to the world and damages the holiest of causes: the preaching of the Gospel to every creature" ("Unitatis redintegratio," 1). Unity is therefore not only the fruit of faith but also a means and almost a presupposition of proclaiming the faith in an ever more credible way to those who do not yet know the Savior. Jesus prayed: "As you, Father, are in me and I in you, may they also be one in us, that the world believe that you have sent me" (John 17:21).

In renewing my gratitude for your service, I assure you of my constant spiritual nearness and from my heart impart to you the Apostolic Blessing. Thank you.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

Russian Church Unhappy About Good Relations Between Ukrainian Greek Catholics and Kyivan Patriarchate

Russian Church Unhappy About Good Relations Between Ukrainian Greek Catholics and Kyivan Patriarchate

Light of the East - January-February 2012 Newsletter from Youngstown Chapter of SSJC

Light of the East, newsletter of the Society's Youngstown-Warren Chapter in Ohio for Jan-Feb 2012 is now available here.