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The Church of the East: There can be only one

It has been a big news week. And I already digressed into the area of moral theology and civility to comment on one of the rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court this week, i am not speaking of the rest (though, as a Catholic Christian, i believe universal access health care is a good, and capital punishment is not, so it was a pretty mixed bag all around).

Ecumenically, there have been a few interesting developments.

Metropolitan Hilarion

Metropolitan Hilarion

The General Synod of the United Church of Christ (USA) unanimously approved a full communion agreement with the United Church of Canada yesterday. The UCC and the UCC are both ‘united and uniting’ churches, themselves the products of previous ecumenical reunion efforts. The UCC (USA) already has similar agreements with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Union of Evangelical (read:Lutheran) Churches in Germany, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Two days ago, the Corriere della Sera published an interview with Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, the head of external relations for the Moscow Patriarchate. He is quoted as saying that a meeting between Patriarch Kiril and Pope Francis “is getting closer every day”. Though this is his boilerplate response when asked about a meeting between the head of the largest Orthodox church with the bishop of Rome, he alluded that it was actually on the agenda – though no date is set, and it would certainly be in a ‘neutral’ location like the Austro-Hungarian Empire Austria or Hungary. This meeting has been in discussion for 20 years, since the intended meeting between Alexy II and John Paul II was cancelled at the last minute.

And of course there was the annual delegation from the Phanar to the Vatican on the patronal feast of Rome, Sts. Paul and Peter. Leading the delegation this year was Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, who was also part of the panel presentation of the environmental encyclical Laudato Si. He and Metropolitan Hilarion were both in Rome this week as part of the drafting committee of a statement, “Towards the Understanding of Synodality and Primacy in the Church of the First Millennium” by the International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

Pope Francis and Metropolitan John

Pope Francis and Metropolitan John

Probably the most interesting, and potentially most dramatic, however, was the proposal of Patriarch Raphael I (Louis Sako) of Bablyon, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, who proposed a plan for a united Church of the East that would entail his own resignation.

The schism between the Church of the East and the rest of the orthodox Christian world is the oldest surviving division in the Church, its origins dating back to the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. It was the Christian Church in the Persian Empire, and has often (wrongly) been called Nestorian. Acknowledging that there is now brief way to do justice to the history of communion and schism between the Church of the East and the Catholic/Orthodox Church(es) in the last 1600 years, suffice it to say that what remains is a very small community based in Baghdad but effectively existing as a diaspora community, with its leaders often in Exile.

There are three current churches succeeding from that original Church of the East, which was founded, according to tradition, by the apostle Thomas and by Mar Addai (Jude/Thaddeus, maybe, or a disciple of Thomas) and Mari, a disciple of Addai.

The Assyrian Church of the East, whose Catholicos (Patriarch) Mar Dinkha IV died in March, consists of about 250,000 faithful, mostly in the U.S., Europe, and Oceania. The election of his successor has been postponed until September. The patriarchate went into exile to the United States in the 1930s. (The Assyrian Church is, to the best of my knowledge, the only ancient apostolic church where priests and deacons have been allowed to marry even after ordination; in the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, married men could be ordained, but ordained men could not be married).

Patriarch Raphael I and Mar Dinkha IV

Patriarch Raphael I and Mar Dinkha IV

The Ancient Church of the East, whose Catholicos is Mar Addai II (since 1970!) numbers about 100,000 faithful and the patriarchate remains in Baghdad. From at least 1450 until 1976, the patriarchate of the Assyrian Church of the East had become a hereditary office, passing from uncle to nephew. In 1964, some members of the Assyrian Church used the official adoption of the Gregorian calendar as an opportunity to split from the rest, the underlying reason being objection to this hereditary practice and perhaps wanting to keep the hierarchy based in its ancient homeland.

The Chaldean Catholic Church was initially established in 1553 when a similar break-away faction of the Assyrian hierarchy (also objecting to a hereditary patriarchate) sought full communion with Rome, and over the next three centuries there was a great deal of fluidity back and forth, only stabilized about 1830. The Chaldeans number somewhere between 500,000 and 750,000, also mostly in diaspora. Patriarch Raphael I has been the primate of this church since 2013.

For the last three decades, there have been very successful ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, resulting in a Joint Christological Declaration in 1996, resolving the theological issue that had divided the churches of Rome and Persia back in the 5th century. Ten years later an agreement on sacraments was reached but not promulgated due to some internal issues. The only remaining issue holding back full communion was that of common ecclesiastical governance, and this is what Patriarch Raphael of the Chaldean Catholic Church has proposed to resolve now, if he and Patriarch Addy II both resign, and the bishops of all three churches come together to elect a single Catholicos-Patriarch.

Let us pray that this comes to fruition this year!

 

Patriarch Raphael’s Proposal:

I would like to share some personal thoughts with those of others, since they may contribute to achieving the project of “the unity of the Church of the East”.

Unity is the commandment of the Lord Jesus, “so that they may be one” (John 17/11), and the demand of Christians who face significant challenges that threaten their existence in diaspora with assimilation, and in the motherland with extinction

I propose that we adopt a single denomination for the church: The Church of the East as it was for many centuries, and that we not maintain the factional denominations. The single denomination will give it strength and momentum, and it can become a model for other churches.

The communion of faith and unity with the Roman See is a fundamental base of unity. It is an increase of power, not a decrease, especially since there is no difference in doctrine, but only in its formal expression. Therefore, to think of disassembling the link of “the Church of the East” with the See of Rome would be a great loss and cause of weakness. Unity does not mean uniformity, nor the melting of our own church identity into one style, but it maintains unity in diversity and we remain one apostolic universal church, the Oriental Church, that maintains its independence of administration, laws and liturgies, traditions and support through respect for the authority of the Patriarch and the Synod of Bishops.

After deliberation and dialogue between the three branches and the acceptance of this communion with Rome:

1. The current Patriarchs: Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, and Mar Addai II, Patriarch of the ancient Church of the East, would submit their resignations without any conditions, but their desire for unity.

2. The Bishops of the three churches would meet to choose a new Patriarch.

3. The elected Patriarch should have assistants from each branch to enhance the “weft” (the permanent Synod).

4. The Patriarch and the Synod would leave national interests to the laity, because the church should be open to everyone and concerned with the best interests of all.

5. The Patriarch and the Synod would prepare for a General Synod to develop a new road-map for The One Church of the East.

[For the best guide to navigating the byzantine waters of Eastern Christianity, see Ron Roberson, The Eastern Christian Churches, now in its 7th Edition]

Theology Jokes 2015

I may not have uploaded last year’s!

PopeLaughing

Some Pharisees bring an adulteress before Jesus and ask Him what they should do with her, reminding him that the typical penalty is stoning. He calmly replies “let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” A single rock soars up our of the crowd and strikes the adulteress on the head,, knocking her senseless. Jesus’ initial look of bewilderment is quickly replaced with annoyed indignity as he shouts, “Mom!”

 

A priest had been hearing confessions all day and was really hoping to get out early so he could catch a playoff game with his home team. Ten minutes before game time, it had already been quiet for a while. Assuming there were no more people in line, the priest got up to go, happy that he would be able to catch the game after all.  Just as he did so, he heard to door of the confessional creak open.

“Please let it be a little old lady who will only take five minutes” he prayed.

“Bless me Father, for I have sinned.” A low, gruff voice intoned. “It has been 24 years since my last confession.”

To which the priest replied, “Well, come back next year and we’ll celebrate your anniversary!”

Q: What is God’s favorite chord?
A: Gsus

 

A Franciscan and a Dominican are walking together and encounter a river. Since the Franciscan is barefoot, the Dominican asks him to carry him across the water so he won’t get his shoes wet. Content, the Franciscan agrees. Mid-stream, though, the Franciscan pauses. “Brother,” he asks “Do you have any money on you?” The Dominican answers, “Well, yes, I have a few coins in my pouch”. The Franciscan replies, “What? My vows prevent me from carrying any wealth!”, and immediately throws the Dominican off his shoulders, getting him very, very wet.

 

Pope John XXIII was asked once, “How many people work in the Vatican, your Holiness?”
“About half,” he answered.

 

What happened at the first baseball game in the bible?
In the Big Inning, Eve stole first, Adam stole second, and Cain struck Abel out.

 

God sees Adam without a human companion, so he descends and tells Adam, “I will make for you a great partner. She will praise you, follow you, serve you, never question you or get in your way. She will bring pleasure and help expand the human race, ending your loneliness. It will only cost you an arm and a leg.”

Adam considers the offer and then replies, “What can I get for a rib?”

 

Q: How do you know the pope has primacy?
A: Easy, he’s a primate.

 

Q: Why do they wear goggles at the convent?
A: Because they are nunderwater.

 

A Dominican and a Jesuit die in a car accident. When they get to heaven, the gates swing open and a red carpet rolls out. Mary and Peter come out and embrace the Jesuit. Trumpets are playing and more saints arrive, including Ignatius and Francis Xavier. They usher the Jesuit in with singing. The gates swing shut behind him.

The Dominican is left confused outside. After a few minutes, an unfamiliar Dominican sticks his head out of a side door, saying, “Hey, you. Get in here.”

The Dominican asks, “How come I didn’t get the red carpet treatment?”

The other replies, “We get Dominicans in here every day, but it has been a couple centuries since the last Jesuit came right in!”

 

“Your Holiness, we have good news and we have bad news. The good news is that Jesus has returned, and he’s on the phone right now wanting to talk to you!”

“That’s wonderful!” Says the pope, “So what could be the bad news?”

“He’s calling from Salt Lake City…”

 

The Dominican, Jesuit, and Franciscan superiors general decide that it is time once and for all to put aside their differences and squabbling, and just ask God who His favorite Order is. So they dedicate an octave of prayer and fasting in silent retreat together, at the end of which spend a night in vigil at the altar in the chapel, beseeching God for an answer.

At the end of the vigil, in the still quiet hours of the morning, a sudden clap of thunder and a blinding light fill the chapel. When they can see again, the three notice a beautiful golden scroll atop the altar.

“My dear little Children, I love each of you equally and have endowed you each with different charisms for a reason. There are many gifts but only one Spirit – to be united in me does not require uniformity….” It goes on for some time extolling the virtues of each, and their particular place in the infinite design of God.

After moving each to tears, the scroll concludes, “Remember, my children, I have no favorites among you. Please put aside these questions, and go forth in love and service to each other.

Your Loving Father,
God, S.J.

 

A Franciscan and a Jesuit were standing on a street corner when a man approaches them with a question. “Fathers, is it permissible to pray a novena to get a Maserati?”

“What is a Maserati?” Asks the Franciscan.

“What’s a novena?” Asks the Jesuit.

 

“The pope is taking suggestions on how to streamline the curia, improve efficiency, and weed out corruption. Any ideas?”
“Move the Vatican out of Italy?”

Mapping the College of Cardinals

With a class this week explaining the college of cardinals and other aspects of the Catholic hierarchy to some undergrads, in honor of the weekend’s consistory creating 20 new princes of the Church, I found a few helpful resources worth sharing.

The Vatican’s website has upped its game, in offering some new statistics on the College of Cardinals. You can find lists by name, age, or nationality. Graphs indicating the distribution of cardinals according to the pope that appointed them, the percentage of electors vs. emeriti, or how many serve in the curia. The graph below breaks down membership according to geographical region.

cardinalgraph

The independent Catholic-hierarchy.com has already updated its lists, which can be sorted by various values.

The incomparable CGP Grey offers some illumination in his clip “How to become pope”, meant for popular consumption.

There are of course more academic articles, historical sources, and ecclesiological treatises, plus reform suggestions that range from adding women cardinals to eliminating the sacred college altogether. There are interviews with the new cardinals (one reporter shared that Italian colleagues were getting bent out of shape upon realizing that some of the new wearers of scarlet did not speak a word of Italian beyond “ciao”.)

One thing I could not find was a map indicating where the cardinals were from. Something to give visual aid to the question of a more globalized Church reflected in a more globalized college. So I created one.

Click on the (scarlet) pins to see basic information about each cardinal.

Residential cardinals – that is, those cardinal-presbyters who are bishops or archbishops of dioceses around the world – are located according to their See.

Curial cardinals – mostly cardinal-deacons serving in the Roman Curia – are located according to their place of birth (and they represent 28% of the total electorate).

There are options to see retired/over-80 cardinals, too, also organized by curia or diocese. Their pins are a lighter shade of scarlet (cough… pink… cough).

A couple of immediate observations, beyond the overcrowding of Italy, were some of the wide open areas without any: No Scandinavian cardinals, none from easternmost Europe or central Asia. For China, only Hong Kong.

In the US, all but one of the diocesan cardinals are from the eastern half of the country, and that even counts the retirees. There is a small corridor from the great lakes to the north Atlantic coast that accounts for the overwhelming majority of North American cardinals, leaving one thinking it might be time to move some of those pins to the likes of Vancouver, Seattle, Denver, Indianapolis or Atlanta. Or, if we want to go peripheral, maybe Tucson, Honolulu, and Juneau.

Would love to hear thoughts,take corrections, or hear it has been used by other teachers.

Reforming the Roman Curia: Next Steps

This weekend, word started getting around that the much anticipated reforms of the Roman Curia were finally ready for delivery – at least a number of them.

Pope Francis met with the dicastery heads this morning to give them a preview of changes, though no official word yet on what they all will be.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, new Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship

Cardinal Robert Sarah, new Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship

What has been announced is that there is a new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, which has been vacant since Cardinal Canizares Llovera was appointed as Archbishop of Valencia at the end of August. The new top liturgist of the Roman curia is Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea. Cardinal Sarah has been working in the Curia since 2001, first as Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and since 2010 as President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”. The new prefect, like most of his predecessors, has no formal education in Liturgy.

The rest is a bit of informed speculation, and nothing is ever official until it is announced:

Among the long awaited and predicted reforms to the curia will likely be the establishment of a Congregation for the Laity – raising the dicastery dealing with 99.9% of the Church’s population to the same level as the two (Bishops and Clergy) that deal with the other 0.1%. The new Congregation would have, it seems, five sections: Marriage and Families; Women; Youth; Associations and Movements; and one other. Too much to hope it would be for Lay Ecclesial Ministry? The current Council has a section on sport, so perhaps that would be maintained, but I suspect not.

No one would be terribly surprised to see the new prefect of such a congregation turn out to be Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, since he suggested the move publicly last year. What would be a true sign of reform would be to appoint a lay person or couple with degrees and work experience in lay spirituality, lay ministry, or something related. Then make the first lay cardinal we have seen in a century and a half.[1]

The new congregation would certainly combine and replace the Councils for Laity and for Family, but could possibly also incorporate New Evangelization or Culture, which are directly related to the apostolate of the laity in the secular world.

If you read Evangelii Gaudium, though, it is clear that Pope Francis sees the “new Evangelization” as an aspect simply of Evangelization proper, and I would be less surprised to see this Council incorporated into the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Culture would be appropriately aggregated to Laity.

The other big combination long anticipated would be a Congregation for Peace and Justice – or something similarly named. It would combine the Councils of Peace and Justice, Cor Unum, Health Care Workers, and the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, and possibly the Academy for Life. It would have sections corresponding to these priorities: Life; Migrants; Health Care; Charity; and Peace and Justice in the World. Presumably, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana would continue from the current homonymous council as the prefect of the new Congregation.

Finally, a revamp of the Vatican Communications apparatus has been underway for a couple of years, and we could expect to see something formal announced much like the Secretariat for the Economy. Perhaps a Congregation for Communications, or at least a stronger Council, with direct responsibility all communications in the Vatican: L’Osservatore Romano, Vatican Radio, CTV, the websites, various social media, the publishing house, etc.

Now, a couple of ideas that would be welcome, but are not expected:

laycardinals

Not exactly how i envision lay cardinals…

The combination of the Congregations for Bishops and Clergy – have a single congregation with three or four sections: Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons, and Other Ministers/Lay Ecclesial Ministy. This would be especially possible if the responsibility for electing bishops – only in the modern era reserved to the pope – could be carefully restored to the local churches in most cases.

The creation of a Congregation for Dialogue, replacing the Councils for Promoting Christian Unity, Interreligious Dialogue, and the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. It would accordingly have several sections: Western Christians; Eastern Christians; Jews; Other Religions. Perhaps the whole Courtyard of the Gentiles effort could be folded into this as well.

Alternatively, leaving Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue in separate dicasteries but with more influence, like requiring every document coming out of the CDF and other congregations to be vetted before publication, to make sure they incorporate ecumenical agreements and principles as a sign of reception.

Formalization of the separation out from the Secretariat of State for responsibilities relating to moderating the curia. The Secretariat should be dealing with diplomatic issues. The rest could be reorganized in a number of different ways.

Streamlining of the judicial dicasteries, including removing the judicial aspects out from CDF and into a stand-alone tribunal. Granted, it is thanks to then-Cardinal Ratzinger and the CDF that any movement on abuser priests happened, but it is still anomalous to have. (Still need to work out what this would look like though).

A consistory which creates no new Italian cardinals – lets get the numbers down to a reasonable amount. Like five. If there are any (North) Americans, they would be the likes of Bishop Gerald Kicanas from Tucson, Archbishop Joe Tobin of Indianapolis, or Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle – but nobody else from east of the Mississippi. Maybe a bishop from Wyoming or Alaska, the real “peripheries” of American Catholicism. At least five Brazilians and another Filippino. Maybe an Iranian.

Above all, nobody would be appointed to serve in a dicastery without a doctorate in the relevant field, and experience in that area of ministry.

——

[1] The last being Teodolfo Martello, who was created cardinal while still a lay man, though he was ordained deacon two months later. At his death in 1899, he was last cardinal not to be either a presbyter or bishop. Since 1917 all cardinals were required to be ordained presbyters; since 1968 all were normally required to be ordained bishops.

50th Anniversary of Unitatis Redintegratio celebrated in Rome

UnitatisInvite-page-001

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/

Theology of the Laity – According to a Seminarian

Recently, I met with a visiting friend (who happens to be a canon lawyer) and we decided to sit in on Rome’s Theology on Tap, offered by some of the seminarians of the North American College to some of the study abroad programs that they work with for their “apostolates” (volunteer service giving them practice in some forms of ministry).

It is an interesting experience, to a professor of both U.S. undergrads and seminarians in Rome, because although neither the seminarians nor most of the undergrads present are in my classes, it still felt a little like I was listening to an oral presentation by one student that needed grading. I could not help myself.

The topic was “The Laity”. In fairness, my seat was in the back, so there were times it was hard to catch everything. But these are the points I heard:

  • The Church teaches that priesthood and religious life (no mention of diaconate) are objectively a higher state than the laity. Subjectively, however, the universal call to holiness is equal for everyone in the Church.
  • There is a difference between ministry and service. [Could not hear the definition]. Ministry is exercised only by the ordained. Lay people can only offer service. When you hear people talk about liturgical “ministry”, like a lector, this is really a service.
  • The Lay Vocations are Marriage and Consecrated Life. Just as priests are committed to the Church, consecrated are committed to their communities, and married people are committed to each other.
  • The Mission of the laity is exactly the mission of the whole church: Evangelization.
  • [Missed something] You have the duty to correct your priests, professors, other leaders if you hear something wrong.

My canonist friend and I come from different cultures of Catholicism, but both have an ecclesial vocation, as lay people, in ministry and service to the Church. And while we had different objections to some of the points, we were in accord that, unfortunately, not everything represented well the Church’s teaching. The Church itself, of course, is not always consistently clear on this topic, which occasionally adds to the confusion.

First, he’s right on his penultimate point about the mission of the laity, which is the mission fo the Church. The laity are the vanguard of the Church’s mission, the clergy and other ecclesial ministers are there for support and leadership, but it is the laity whose first role is to go out into the world and get the real work of the Church done.

The final point might have been a reference to canon 212, by which all the faithful have the right, and are even obligated, to make their needs and concerns known to the Church according to their expertise. Consider this an exercise thereof to avoid similar mistakes by others.

Now the problematic points.Taken with a grain of salt, as i said, there was occasional cross-noise, so if i missed any clarifying comments or explanations to the points, the fault is mine.

The Church itself does not make use of this “objective”/”subjective” distinction in terms of a person’s state. All are equal in baptism. All are equally called to holiness, as he pointed out. Where there might be some confusion is in distinguishing the ways we participate in the One Priesthood of Christ. All who are Initiated (Baptized, Confirmed, Eucharist-ed) have a share in Christ’s priesthood. This is the universal priesthood, the priesthood of all believers. As priests, we are still equal. Lumen Gentium 10 says that these two kinds of participation in Christ’s priesthood “differ from one another in essence and not only in degree.” This seems to lend credence to the idea that one is higher. Avery Dulles, however, repeatedly pointed out it was better understood as “differing from one another in essence and not in degree,” that is, that they are different kinds of participation, but one is not higher than the other. Plus, we have only to look at scripture to see Jesus’ idea of leaders clamoring for a “higher status” – and it is not well received. Those called to leadership are called as servants.

Which goes to the distinction between ministry and service. As I missed something, its entirely possible he hit something right on, but the follow up was insufficient. The two words, in a Christian context, are both translations of diakonia. All ministry is service. Fair enough to say that not all service is ministry, but the distinction is not about ordained and lay, but about the nature of the service. Rather like the distinction between skills and charisms, wherein the later are always for the building up of the Body of Christ. Possible confusion comes from an infamous interdicasterial instruction that attempted to limit the term “ministry” to the ordained back in 1997, wherein this dichotomy was presented – yet every pope since (John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis) have referred to lay ministry, as have most bishops conferences and other documents of the curia.

Finally on vocations. Put simply, everyone has a vocation. There are hardly only two options for lay people, and in fact, the two mentioned were only one kind of vocation – relationship – which is also called a state of life. Everyone also has a vocation to ministry/mission and to spirituality, at least. Some of the faithful are called to marriage, consecrated life, celibacy or single life. Some of the faithful are called to serve the church’s mission in the world, some as ecclesial ministers. Some of the former take vows, some enter into a sacramental relationship, though not all. Some of the later are ordained, though not all. Not all celibates are priests, not all priests are celibate. Not all lay people are married, and not all married people are lay. When talking vocations, it is confusing to try and force the square peg of relationship into the round hole of ministry.

But, that is one of the services offered by seminary, correction to mistaken ideas about the people you are called to serve.

 pretres-soutane-football_m460

Ecumenical Blogs from Atonement Friars

LutheranChapelTalinnI want to take a moment to highlight two blogs from the world of ecumenism hosted by Atonement friars.

The Centro Pro Unione in Rome is the ecumenical center for the Eternal City, and the main library for the ecumenical section of the theology faculty at the Angelicum. Housed in the Collegio Innocenziano overlooking Piazza Navona, it was once one of several ecumenically oriented institutions in the building, including the Lay Centre, Casa Foyer Unitas, and Taize. It is the site of the Thursday debriefing during the Council for ecumenical observers, who were staying upstairs as Foyer Unitas at the time.

Its director, Prof. James Puglisi, SA, is also director of the ecumenical section at the Angelicum, and has started a blog here: Ecumenism Around the World: http://atonement-ecumenism.blogspot.it/

From the American branch of the Society of the Atonement, based at Graymoor, NY, comes the monthly publication Ecumenical Trends and the homonymous blog, http://ecumenicaltrends.blogspot.it/

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2014 (Rome)

WPCU2014

The schedule of events that i could collect to be celebrated here in Rome for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This excludes several parishes which dedicate daily liturgy and/or devotions to the theme. 

Settimana di preghiera per l’unità dei Cristiani

Has Christ Been Divided? Cristo non può essere diviso! (I Cor 1.1-17)

General information on the Week of Prayer can be found here.

 

 

 

Thursday, 16 January:  Day of Jewish-Christian Dialogue and Reflection

 18.00      Jewish-Catholic Dialogue Fifty Years after Nostra Aetate: A Latin-American Perspective
Rabbi Abraham Skorka at the Pontifical Gregorian University
Moderated by Cardinal Kurt Koch

 Saturday, 18 January

16.30       Incontro di preghiera dei consacrati/e della Diocesi di Roma
Basilica San Lorenzo fuori le Mura

 17.30       Vespers at Capella di Santa Brigida, Piazza Farnese  96
Cardinal Kurt Koch, Archbishop Leo (Chiesa di Finlandia), Bishop Makinen (Luterano),
Bishop Sippo (Diocesi Cattolica di Helsinki),  and Bishop Brian Farrell

[invite]      Vespers at Pontifical Beda College, Viale San Paolo 18
Very Rev. Ken Howcroft preaching

20.00      Ukrainian Catholic (Byzantine Rite) Divine Liturgy – Basilian Fathers, Santa Maria in Via Lata, Via del Corso 306

 Sunday, 19 January

 11.00       Catholic Eucharist with Archbishop David Moxon Preaching
Caravita Community, Via del Caravita 7

12.00       Angelus with Pope Francis, Piazza San Pietro

16.00      Celebrazione Ecumenica Finlandese
Bishop Teemu Sippo, SCI (Catholic), Bishop Kari Mäkinen (Lutheran), Archbishop Leo (Orthodox)
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva ,Piazza del Minerva 42

18.00      Incontro di preghiera del Gruppo Romano del SAE
Capella delle Suore Francescane di Maria, Via Macchiavelli 32

18.30       Celebrazione Ecumenica Tedesca with German/Hungarian College, S. Maria dell’Anima
At Christus Kirche Via Sicilia 70

20.00      Roman Catholic (Latin Rite) Eucharist– Archbishop Piero Marini, presiding
Santa Maria in Via Lata, Via del Corso 306

 Monday, 20 January

18.00      Anglican Choral Evensong  with Ven. Jonathan Boardman Preaching
Basilica San Paolo fuori le mura

18.30       Santa Messa at Parocchia di S. Maria delle Grazie alle Fornaci
19.30       Conferenza “Il movimento ecumenico, la santità”, Padre Ciro Bova

20.00      Greek Catholic (Byzantine Rite) Divine Liturgy – Pontifical Greek College
Santa Maria in Via Lata, Via del Corso 306

Tuesday, 21 January

11:45       Anglican Center Eucharist, Piazza Collegio Romano 2

18.30       Santa Messa, Parrocchia S. Maria delle Grazie alle Fornaci
19.30       Conferenza: L’ecumenismo, il punti di vista dei fratelli ortodossi”, P. Vladimir Zelinsky

 20.00      Syro Malankara Catholic (Antiochene Rite) Holy Qurbana – Damascene College

Santa Maria in Via Lata, Via del Corso 306

Wednesday, 22 January

10.30       General Audience with Pope Francis, Sala Audienza Paolo VI

[Invite]   Vespers at Pontifical Irish College, Archbishop David Moxon preaching

18:30    Venerable English College, Rev. Keith Pecklers, SJ, preaching

18.30       Santa Messa at Parrocchia di S. Maria delle Grazie alle Fornaci
19.30 Confronto e dibattito sul tema della santita nell/’ecumenismo: P. Ciro Bova, P. Vladimir Zelinsky

20.00      Armenian Catholic (Armenian Rite)  Divine Liturgy – Armenian College
Santa Maria in Via Lata, Via del Corso 306

 Thursday, 23 January

16.30    Mixed Salad Ecumenism in the Caribbean: Is there a Future? 
Archbishop Donald Reece, Archbishop Emeritus of Kingston, Jamaica;
Followed by a Celebration of the Word with
Rev. Willie McCulloch presiding, and Very Rev. Ken Howcroft preaching
At Centro Pro Unione, Via S. Maria dell’Anima 30 (Cosponsored by Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas)

18.30       Diocesan vespers at with Ven. Jonathan Boardman preaching,
SS. Martiri dell’Uganda, Via Adolfo Ravà 31

20.00      Maronite Catholic (Antiochene Rite) Divine Liturgy – Maronite Order of the BVM
Santa Maria in Via Lata, Via del Corso 306

Friday, 24 January

 20.00      Gruppo Incontro at Chiesa Valdese, Piazza Cavour

20.00      Romanian Catholic (Byzantine Rite) Divine Liturgy – Romanian College
Santa Maria in Via Lata, Via del Corso 306

 Saturday, 25 January

 17.30       Papal Vespers, Basilica San Paolo fuori le mura (tickets required)

20.00      Ethiopian Catholic (Alexandrian Rite) Divine Liturgy – Pontifical Ethiopian College
Santa Maria in Via Lata, Via del Corso 306

 Sunday, 26 January

16.00      Churches Together in Rome Unity Service
Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton, Secretary General of Canadian Council of Churches
Basilica San Silvestro in Capite, Piazza di San Silvestro 17A

Monday, 27 January

14:30     Il concilio e ecumenismo: Lectio Conclusiva di ‘Il Concilio Vaticano II: Storia e Sviluppi
Bishop Charles Morerod, OP,  bishop of Lausanne, Genève et Fribourg
at Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum)

 

BrotherApostles

Jeffrey Gros, FSC: In Memoriam

Prof. Jeffrey Gros, FSC

Prof. Jeffrey Gros, FSC

I was in Montenegro when I received word of Br. Jeff’s passing this summer (12 August). For more than a decade, Br. Jeff Gros has been one of my chief ecumenical mentors. There have been many who have helped me along the way, but few as significant an educator and supporter as Brother Jeff.   I have been reflecting on his life and his help to me in these years, and I keep finding it a daunting task to do justice to his memory and contributions.

There has never been any vocation for me but that of ecumenist. I barely remember wanting to do anything with my life other than be an ecumenist, even to the point of seeking it out as a university major (not an option, so I had to settle for Theology in general!). Whether the path to living it out was through the presbyterate, diaconate, lay ecclesial ministry, or academic theology always seemed to me to be a secondary question.

Br. Jeff was part of that generation that came of age just at the time of the Second Vatican Council. He completed his BA in the same year that Good Pope John called the council, and spent the years of the Council teaching in high schools and in his own graduate studies. In 1965 he published a master’s thesis on ministry and orders in the presbyterian church. In the very year the council ended! He wrote his doctorate at Fordham in the height of the energy and expectation about ecumenism, at a time when people seemed to think that reunion with Anglicans, Lutherans, and Orthodox, at least, would happen by the end of the decade.

Jeff was hired on as the first Catholic director of Faith and Order for the National Council of Churches during the 80’s, so he was on hand just as the WCC Faith and Orders most famous convergence statement, Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry, was prepared, published, and received. In the most cutting-edge era of modern ecumenism, Jeff was at the forefront, and widely acknowledged as one of the most knowledgeable and approachable experts in a field populated by many of the best and brightest the Churches had to offer.

After a decade at Faith and Order, he was brought into the staff of the USCCB office for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue, at that office’s height of effort and episcopal support. In the same year Pope Benedict was elected, the USCCB suffered a number of cutbacks and reorganizations, shrinking the office to half its previous staffing levels.

He was a member of the National Association of Evangelicals and of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, being elected president of the later on their 40th anniversary plenary. He knew the churches and communities from the inside out, and I daresay, sometimes better than many of their own leaders (Catholic Church included, of course).

I met Jeff in 2002, the year I finally got connected with national-level ecumenical networking (there was no ecumenical network for youth in the US then!), through my advisor at CUA, John Ford, CSC. First there was the CUIC Inauguration in Memphis, the National Workshop on Christian Unity in Cleveland, and Orientale Lumen in Washington, DC.  Jeff was one of the many “rock stars” of the ecumenical movement I encountered for the first time that year. I would have the privilege of his tutelage during the USCCB’s Institute for Ecumenical Leadership twice (basic and advanced) and at several conferences over the years, most commonly the NWCU.

Jeff was a walking encyclopedia of ecumenism. Having lived through the Catholic Church’s entire history of ecumenical commitment since the Council, as an academic and educator throughout, and having witnessed and documented most of it personally as staff at the NCC and USCCB for a quarter century, the number of people who paralleled his first-hand experience and knowledge of the movement can probably be counted on one hand.

I remember sitting at a table with Jeff when I admitted I had been confused when a speaker kept referencing Arminianism, and I had assumed they were talking about the Armenian Apostolic Church (and it was not making much sense). “How could you study the Synod of Dordt and not remember Arminius?” he chided with a smile as he launched into an enthralling history lesson on the intricacies of early 17th-century Dutch Reformed theology and its internecine conflicts. I did not have the heart to tell him that my survey of church history had not even covered the synod.

It was one of many teachable moments i had with Jeff, rather that he had with me, which encouraged me to further study. (Encouragement also sometimes took the form of a kick in the pants: “A.J., you know ecumenism, you know the material, just get your thesis written already!”) In fact, the last correspondence we had before he died was to encourage me to apply to a position as ecumenical officer in a large diocese that would allow me teaching opportunities as well.

Br. Jeff at the NWCU

Br. Jeff at the NWCU

Talking to other young ecumenists (though I no longer qualify for the young part, I fear), everyone had an encounter with Jeff that pushed them along the path to unity.

But it was not just the external dialogue that Br. Jeff modeled. A lay brother, he knew the sting of clericalism long before lay ecclesial ministry had its rise and subsequent decline. I once found myself complaining to him about the disparity of opportunity for those of us without a Roman collar, when it hit me like a bolt – if Jeff had been ordained, he probably would have been made cardinal, a la Avery Dulles. What I found cause for grumbling, he handled with aplomb and renewed dedication.

He was tireless. He published more in the eleven years I have known him that I have hopes to achieve in a lifetime. More than twenty books bear his name as author, contributor, or editor, and some of them are massive tomes. Others are incredibly practical, pastoral, and handy for catechesis. He has over the 300 articles, and so many book reviews that they would probably fill an entire bookshelf in themselves. He consulted, taught, corresponded, and was present to just about everyone who has engaged in the search for Christian Unity in the Anglophone world in the last fifty years, I suspect.

Brother Jeff was an indefatigable proponent of the Gospel plea for unity in place of uniformity, for communion in place of conflict, for dialogue in place of division. He was and remains an inspiration to two generations of ecumenists, at least, and, I have no doubt, is in a place to intercede on our behalf as we recall and reclaim the final prayer of Christ. He will be missed in this here and now, but I am grateful every day to have counted him a friend and mentor.

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus Deus, in Sion,
et tibi reddetur votum in Ierusalem.
Exaudi orationem meam;
ad te omnis caro veniet.
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

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