Dear brothers and sisters,
On this day, as we celebrate the feast of the Theophany of Our Lord, I would like to open and dedicate this year — which marks the golden anniversary of the establishment of the Eparchy of Parma of the Ruthenians and of the Metropolitan Church Sui Iuris of Pittsburgh — as the year of renewal and deepening of our faith.
Blessed Pope Paul VI issued a decree February 21, 1969, entitled Quandoquidem Christus, which transformed the status of the Byzantine Catholic Church in the United States, creating the Metropolia of Pittsburgh with two suffragan eparchies — Passaic and Parma. Prior to that, when our ancestors came to this country and brought with them a desire to worship in their own rite and have their own churches, we were part of the Eparchy of Pittsburgh.
Fifty years provide the opportunity to look back and reflect on the life of our Church. We do this in thanksgiving, recognizing the many examples of sacrifice, piety, dedication and vitality that resulted in growth, especially in the 1970s and 80s. Without a doubt, many souls were led to their heavenly reward. With gratitude we remember that cloud of witnesses — the bishops, priests, religious and laity, who, in countless ways offered testimony to their faith.
The anniversary year also offers an occasion to acknowledge the negative events that weakened our eparchy and caused a loss of vitality and, at times, even a loss of hope for the future. We should approach the Lord with repentance in our hearts and ask forgiveness, individually and as an eparchy.
Above all, we need to look forward with hope. This is only possible with renewed faith and a firm decision to follow the Gospel that contains the commandments of Christ. If our hearts have abandoned this willingness, we should look into the reasons why. St. Theophan the Recluse says this happens when the grace given at baptism is not preserved. He provides the following causes:
1. Leaving the church and its grace-giving means, which starves the root of the Christian life, disconnecting it from its sources. In this way it wilts, just as a flower does when it is not watered.
2. Failure to pay heed to one’s bodily nature, which opens the door for passions to take hold of the soul.
3. Forgetting the main goal of life: People do not have direction and lack the means to achieve union with God.
4. Neglecting the spiritual life: Prayer, the fear of God and conscience are overshadowed by earthly cares.
5. Neglecting to put into practice Christian principles and God’s way of life.
Could this point to the lack of vitality in our individual faith and lives, and in the eparchy as a whole? I would like you to join with the clergy at your parish and meditate on these causes. My hope is that this exercise will lead to spiritual activities in your parish that could renew the grace of baptism in our souls. We must first, however, be convinced that personal holiness, which leads to salvation, is a priority. This will take courage and conviction. I challenge you to make a pledge to begin the process that leads to this goal. I challenge all priests to preach during this 50th-anniversary year about how to avoid the five points of St. Theophan the Recluse above and to teach the art of spiritual living, the importance of prayer and the sacraments, and of giving up small things for the sake of gaining everything.
We sing in the Kontakion of the feast of the Theophany of Our Lord the beautiful and profound words, “You have revealed yourself to the world today; and your light, O Lord, has set its seal on us. We recognize you and exclaim to you: You have come and revealed yourself, O Unapproachable Light.” Let us not be afraid to renew the grace of our baptism in us, to recognize the Unapproachable Light who has set a seal on us.
We pray at the Great Blessing of the Jordan Water: “The waters beheld you, O Lord; the waters beheld you and they trembled. The River Jordan turns back on its course as it beholds the fire of the Godhead coming down upon it and entering it in the flesh.” We need to understand that the River Jordan turning back on its course as Christ enters its waters is symbolically its turning away from the Dead Sea (death) towards the Sea of Galilee (life).
As we begin this year of renewal and of deepening our faith to mark the 50th anniversary of the Eparchy of Parma and the Metropolia, I exhort you to make a pledge to renew your faith, as well as our Church, with the pledge cards that were distributed to your parish and that may be found in a visible place in your church.
As we commemorate the Baptism of Our Lord, let us be mindful of our own baptism, when we first received the grace to live the life of Christian discipleship. I pray that we are renewed in our journey and that we accept Christ in our lives, so that Life can turn us back to life as individuals, parish communities, and as the Eparchy of Parma.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Milan Lach, SJ
Bishop of the Eparchy of Parma
JOINT INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION FOR THE THEOLOGICAL DIALOGUE
BETWEEN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
ECCLESIOLOGICAL AND CANONICAL CONSEQUENCES
OF THE SACRAMENTAL NATURE OF THE CHURCH
ECCLESIAL COMMUNION, CONCILIARITY & AUTHORITY
Ravenna, 13 October 2007
- “That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17, 21). We give thanks to the triune God who has gathered us – members of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church – so that we might respond together in obedience to this prayer of Jesus. We are conscious that our dialogue is restarting in a world that has changed profoundly in recent times. The processes of secularization and globalization, and the challenge posed by new encounters between Christians and believers of other religions, require that the disciples of Christ give witness to their faith, love and hope with a new urgency. May the Spirit of the risen Lord empower our hearts and minds to bear the fruits of unity in the relationship between our Churches, so that together we may serve the unity and peace of the whole human family. May the same Spirit lead us to the full expression of the mystery of ecclesial communion, that we gratefully acknowledge as a wonderful gift of God to the world, a mystery whose beauty radiates especially in the holiness of the saints, to which all are called.
- Following the plan adopted at its first meeting in Rhodes in 1980, the Joint Commission began by addressing the mystery of ecclesial koinônia in the light of the mystery of the Holy Trinity and of the Eucharist. This enabled a deeper understanding of ecclesial communion, both at the level of the local community around its bishop, and at the level of relations between bishops and between the local Churches over which each presides in communion with the One Church of God extending across the universe (cfr. Munich Document, 1982). In order to clarify the nature of communion, the Joint Commission underlined the relationship which exists between faith, the sacraments – especially the three sacraments of Christian initiation – and the unity of the Church (cfr. Bari Document, 1987). Then by studying the sacrament of Order in the sacramental structure of the Church, the Commission indicated clearly the role of apostolic succession as the guarantee of the koinonia of the whole Church and of its continuity with the Apostles in every time and place (cfr. Valamo Document, 1988). From 1990 until 2000, the main subject discussed by the Commission was that of “uniatism” (Balamand Document, 1993; Baltimore, 2000), a subject to which we shall give further consideration in the near future. Now we take up the theme raised at the end of the Valamo Document, and reflect upon ecclesial communion, conciliarity and authority.
- On the basis of these common affirmations of our faith, we must now draw the ecclesiological and canonical consequences which flow from the sacramental nature of the Church. Since the Eucharist, in the light of the Trinitarian mystery, constitutes the criterion of ecclesial life as a whole, how do institutional structures visibly reflect the mystery of this koinonia? Since the one and holy Church is realised both in each local Church celebrating the Eucharist and at the same time in the koinonia of all the Churches, how does the life of the Churches manifest this sacramental structure?
- Unity and multiplicity, the relationship between the one Church and the many local Churches, that constitutive relationship of the Church, also poses the question of the relationship between the authority inherent in every ecclesial institution and the conciliarity which flows from the mystery of the Church as communion. As the terms “authority” and “conciliarity” cover a very wide area, we shall begin by defining the way we understand them.\
The Foundations of Conciliarity and of Authority
- The term conciliarity or synodality comes from the word “council” (synodos in Greek, concilium in Latin), which primarily denotes a gathering of bishops exercising a particular responsibility. It is also possible, however, to take the term in a more comprehensive sense referring to all the members of the Church (cfr. the Russian term sobornost). Accordingly we shall speak first of all of conciliarity as signifying that each member of the Body of Christ, by virtue of baptism, has his or her place and proper responsibility in eucharistic koinonia (communio in Latin). Conciliarity reflects the Trinitarian mystery and finds therein its ultimate foundation. The three persons of the Holy Trinity are “enumerated”, as St Basil the Great says (On the Holy Spirit, 45), without the designation as “second” or “third” person implying any diminution or subordination. Similarly, there also exists an order (taxis) among local Churches, which however does not imply inequality in their ecclesial nature.
- The Eucharist manifests the Trinitarian koinônia actualized in the faithful as an organic unity of several members each of whom has a charism, a service or a proper ministry, necessary in their variety and diversity for the edification of all in the one ecclesial Body of Christ (cfr. 1 Cor 12, 4-30). All are called, engaged and held accountable – each in a different though no less real manner – in the common accomplishment of the actions which, through the Holy Spirit, make present in the Church the ministry of Christ, “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14, 6). In this way, the mystery of salvific koinonia with the Blessed Trinity is realized in humankind.
- The whole community and each person in it bears the “conscience of the Church” (ekklesiastike syneidesis), as Greek theology calls it, the sensus fidelium in Latin terminology. By virtue of Baptism and Confirmation (Chrismation) each member of the Church exercises a form of authority in the Body of Christ. In this sense, all the faithful (and not just the bishops) are responsible for the faith professed at their Baptism. It is our common teaching that the people of God, having received “the anointing which comes from the Holy One” (1 Jn 2, 20 and 27), in communion with their pastors, cannot err in matters of faith (cfr. Jn 16, 13).
- In proclaiming the Church’s faith and in clarifying the norms of Christian conduct, the bishops have a specific task by divine institution. “As successors of the Apostles, the bishops are responsible for communion in the apostolic faith and for fidelity to the demands of a life in keeping with the Gospel” (Valamo Document, n. 40).
- Councils are the principal way in which communion among bishops is exercised (cfr. Valamo Document, n. 52). For “attachment to the apostolic communion binds all the bishops together linking the episkope of the local Churches to the College of the Apostles. They too form a college rooted by the Spirit in the ‘once for all’ of the apostolic group, the unique witness to the faith. This means not only that they should be united among themselves in faith, charity, mission, reconciliation, but that they have in common the same responsibility and the same service to the Church” (Munich Document, III, 4).
- This conciliar dimension of the Church’s life belongs to its deep-seated nature. That is to say, it is founded in the will of Christ for his people (cfr. Mt 18, 15-20), even if its canonical realizations are of necessity also determined by history and by the social, political and cultural context. Defined thus, the conciliar dimension of the Church is to be found at the three levels of ecclesial communion, the local, the regional and the universal: at the local level of the diocese entrusted to the bishop; at the regional level of a group of local Churches with their bishops who “recognize who is the first amongst themselves” (Apostolic Canon 34); and at the universal level, where those who are first (protoi) in the various regions, together with all the bishops, cooperate in that which concerns the totality of the Church. At this level also, the protoi must recognize who is the first amongst themselves.
- The Church exists in many and different places, which manifests its catholicity. Being “catholic”, it is a living organism, the Body of Christ. Each local Church, when in communion with the other local Churches, is a manifestation of the one and indivisible Church of God. To be “catholic” therefore means to be in communion with the one Church of all times and of all places. That is why the breaking of eucharistic communion means the wounding of one of the essential characteristics of the Church, its catholicity.
- When we speak of authority, we are referring to exousia, as it is described in the New Testament. The authority of the Church comes from its Lord and Head, Jesus Christ. Having received his authority from God the Father, Christ after his Resurrection shared it, through the Holy Spirit, with the Apostles (cfr. Jn 20, 22). Through the Apostles it was transmitted to the bishops, their successors, and through them to the whole Church. Jesus Christ our Lord exercised this authority in various ways whereby, until its eschatological fulfilment (cfr. 1 Cor 15, 24-28), the Kingdom of God manifests itself to the world: by teaching (cfr. Mt 5, 2; Lk 5, 3); by performing miracles (cfr. Mk 1, 30-34; Mt 14, 35-36); by driving out impure spirits (cfr. Mk 1, 27; Lk 4, 35-36); in the forgiveness of sins (cfr. Mk 2, 10; Lk 5, 24); and in leading his disciples in the ways of salvation (cfr. Mt 16, 24). In conformity with the mandate received from Christ (cfr. Mt 28, 18-20), the exercise of the authority proper to the apostles and afterwards to the bishops includes the proclamation and the teaching of the Gospel, sanctification through the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, and the pastoral direction of those who believe (cfr. Lk 10, 16).
- Authority in the Church belongs to Jesus Christ himself, the one Head of the Church (cfr. Eph 1, 22; 5, 23). By his Holy Spirit, the Church as his Body shares in his authority (cfr. Jn 20, 22-23). Authority in the Church has as its goal the gathering of the whole of humankind into Jesus Christ (cfr. Eph 1,10; Jn 11, 52). The authority linked with the grace received in ordination is not the private possession of those who receive it nor something delegated from the community; rather, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit destined for the service (diakonia) of the community and never exercised outside of it. Its exercise includes the participation of the whole community, the bishop being in the Church and the Church in the bishop (cfr. St Cyprian, Ep. 66, 8).
- The exercise of authority accomplished in the Church, in the name of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, must be, in all its forms and at all levels, a service (diakonia) of love, as was that of Christ (cfr. Mk 10, 45; Jn 13, 1-16). The authority of which we are speaking, since it expresses divine authority, cannot subsist in the Church except in the love between the one who exercises it and those subject to it. It is, therefore, an authority without domination, without physical or moral coercion. Since it is a participation in the exousia of the crucified and exalted Lord, to whom has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (cfr. Mt 28, 18), it can and must call for obedience. At the same time, because of the Incarnation and the Cross, it is radically different from that of leaders of nations and of the great of this world (cfr. Lk 22, 25-27). While this authority is certainly entrusted to people who, because of weakness and sin, are often tempted to abuse it, nevertheless by its very nature the evangelical identification between authority and service constitutes a fundamental norm for the Church. For Christians, to rule is to serve. The exercise and spiritual efficacy of ecclesial authority are thereby assured through free consent and voluntary co-operation. At a personal level, this translates into obedience to the authority of the Church in order to follow Christ who was lovingly obedient to the Father even unto death and death on a Cross (cfr. Phil 2, 8).
- Authority within the Church is founded upon the Word of God, present and alive in the community of the disciples. Scripture is the revealed Word of God, as the Church, through the Holy Spirit present and active within it, has discerned it in the living Tradition received from the Apostles. At the heart of this Tradition is the Eucharist (cfr. 1 Cor 10, 16-17; 11, 23-26). The authority of Scripture derives from the fact that it is the Word of God which, read in the Church and by the Church, transmits the Gospel of salvation. Through Scripture, Christ addresses the assembled community and the heart of each believer. The Church, through the Holy Spirit present within it, authentically interprets Scripture, responding to the needs of times and places. The constant custom of the Councils to enthrone the Gospels in the midst of the assembly both attests the presence of Christ in his Word, which is the necessary point of reference for all their discussions and decisions, and at the same time affirms the authority of the Church to interpret this Word of God.
- In his divine Economy, God wills that his Church should have a structure oriented towards salvation. To this essential structure belong the faith professed and the sacraments celebrated in the apostolic succession. Authority in the ecclesial communion is linked to this essential structure: its exercise is regulated by the canons and statutes of the Church. Some of these regulations may be differently applied according to the needs of ecclesial communion in different times and places, provided that the essential structure of the Church is always respected. Thus, just as communion in the sacraments presupposes communion in the same faith (cfr. Bari Document, nn.29-33), so too, in order for there to be full ecclesial communion, there must be, between our Churches, reciprocal recognition of canonical legislations in their legitimate diversities.
The threefold actualization of Conciliarity and Authority
- Having pointed out the foundation of conciliarity and of authority in the Church, and having noted the complexity of the content of these terms, we must now reply to the following questions: How do institutional elements of the Church visibly express and serve the mystery of koinonia? How do the canonical structures of the Churches express their sacramental life? To this end we distinguished between three levels of ecclesial institutions: that of the local Church around its bishop; that of a region taking in several neighbouring local Churches; and that of the whole inhabited earth (oikoumene) which embraces all the local Churches.
The Local Level
- The Church of God exists where there is a community gathered together in the Eucharist, presided over, directly or through his presbyters, by a bishop legitimately ordained into the apostolic succession, teaching the faith received from the Apostles, in communion with the other bishops and their Churches. The fruit of this Eucharist and this ministry is to gather into an authentic communion of faith, prayer, mission, fraternal love and mutual aid, all those who have received the Spirit of Christ in Baptism. This communion is the frame in which all ecclesial authority is exercised. Communion is the criterion for its exercise.
- Each local Church has as its mission to be, by the grace of God, a place where God is served and honoured, where the Gospel is announced, where the sacraments are celebrated, where the faithful strive to alleviate the world’s misery, and where each believer can find salvation. It is the light of the world (cfr. Mt 5, 14-16), the leaven (cfr. Mt 13, 33), the priestly community of God (cfr. 1 Pet 2, 5 and 9). The canonical norms which govern it aim at ensuring this mission.
- By virtue of that very Baptism which made him or her a member of Christ, each baptized person is called, according to the gifts of the one Holy Spirit, to serve within the community (cfr. 1 Cor 12, 4-27). Thus through communion, whereby all the members are at the service of each other, the local Church appears already “synodal” or “conciliar” in its structure. This “synodality” does not show itself only in the relationships of solidarity, mutual assistance and complementarity which the various ordained ministries have among themselves. Certainly, the presbyterium is the council of the bishop (cfr. St Ignatius of Antioch, To the Trallians, 3), and the deacon is his “right arm” (Didascalia Apostolorum, 2, 28, 6), so that, according to the recommendation of St Ignatius of Antioch, everything be done in concert (cfr. To the Ephesians, 6). Synodality, however, also involves all the members of the community in obedience to the bishop, who is the protos and head (kephale) of the local Church, required by ecclesial communion. In keeping with Eastern and Western traditions, the active participation of the laity, both men and women, of monastics and consecrated persons, is effected in the diocese and the parish through many forms of service and mission.
- The charisms of the members of the community have their origin in the one Holy Spirit, and are directed to the good of all. This fact sheds light on both the demands and the limits of the authority of each one in the Church. There should be neither passivity nor substitution of functions, neither negligence nor domination of anyone by another. All charisms and ministries in the Church converge in unity under the ministry of the bishop, who serves the communion of the local Church. All are called to be renewed by the Holy Spirit in the sacraments and to respond in constant repentance (metanoia), so that their communion in truth and charity is ensured.
The Regional Level
- Since the Church reveals itself to be catholic in the synaxis of the local Church, this catholicity must truly manifest itself in communion with the other Churches which confess the same apostolic faith and share the same basic ecclesial structure, beginning with those close at hand in virtue of their common responsibility for mission in that region which is theirs (cfr. Munich Document, III, 3, and Valamo Document, nn.52 and 53). Communion among Churches is expressed in the ordination of bishops. This ordination is conferred according to canonical order by three or more bishops, or at least two (cfr. Nicaea I, Canon 4), who act in the name of the episcopal body and of the people of God, having themselves received their ministry from the Holy Spirit by the imposition of hands in the apostolic succession. When this is accomplished in conformity with the canons, communion among Churches in the true faith, sacraments and ecclesial life is ensured, as well as living communion with previous generations.
- Such effective communion among several local Churches, each being the Catholic Church in a particular place, has been expressed by certain practices: the participation of the bishops of neighbouring sees at the ordination of a bishop to the local Church; the invitation to a bishop from another Church to concelebrate at the synaxis of the local Church; the welcome extended to the faithful from these other Churches to partake of the eucharistic table; the exchange of letters on the occasion of an ordination; and the provision of material assistance.
- A canon accepted in the East as in the West, expresses the relationship between the local Churches of a region: “The bishops of each province (ethnos) must recognize the one who is first (protos) amongst them, and consider him to be their head (kephale), and not do anything important without his consent (gnome); each bishop may only do what concerns his own diocese (paroikia) and its dependent territories. But the first (protos) cannot do anything without the consent of all. For in this way concord (homonoia) will prevail, and God will be praised through the Lord in the Holy Spirit” (Apostolic Canon 34).
- This norm, which re-emerges in several forms in canonical tradition, applies to all the relations between the bishops of a region, whether those of a province, a metropolitanate, or a patriarchate. Its practical application may be found in the synods or the councils of a province, region or patriarchate. The fact that the composition of a regional synod is always essentially episcopal, even when it includes other members of the Church, reveals the nature of synodal authority. Only bishops have a deliberative voice. The authority of a synod is based on the nature of the episcopal ministry itself, and manifests the collegial nature of the episcopate at the service of the communion of Churches.
- A synod (or council) in itself implies the participation of all the bishops of a region. It is governed by the principle of consensus and concord (homonoia), which is signified by eucharistic concelebration, as is implied by the final doxology of the above-mentioned Apostolic Canon 34. The fact remains, however, that each bishop in his pastoral care is judge, and is responsible before God for the affairs of his own diocese (cfr. St Cyprian, Ep. 55, 21); thus he is the guardian of the catholicity of his local Church, and must be always careful to promote catholic communion with other Churches.
- It follows that a regional synod or council does not have any authority over other ecclesiastical regions. Nevertheless, the exchange of information and consultations between the representatives of several synods are a manifestation of catholicity, as well as of that fraternal mutual assistance and charity which ought to be the rule between all the local Churches, for the greater common benefit. Each bishop is responsible for the whole Church together with all his colleagues in one and the same apostolic mission.
- In this manner several ecclesiastical provinces have come to strengthen their links of common responsibility. This was one of the factors giving rise to the patriarchates in the history of our Churches. Patriarchal synods are governed by the same ecclesiological principles and the same canonical norms as provincial synods.
- In subsequent centuries, both in the East and in the West, certain new configurations of communion between local Churches have developed. New patriarchates and autocephalous Churches have been founded in the Christian East, and in the Latin Church there has recently emerged a particular pattern of grouping of bishops, the Episcopal Conferences. These are not, from an ecclesiological standpoint, merely administrative subdivisions: they express the spirit of communion in the Church, while at the same time respecting the diversity of human cultures.
- In fact, regional synodality, whatever its contours and canonical regulation, demonstrates that the Church of God is not a communion of persons or local Churches cut off from their human roots. Because it is the community of salvation and because this salvation is “the restoration of creation” (cfr. St Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., 1, 36, 1), it embraces the human person in everything which binds him or her to human reality as created by God. The Church is not just a collection of individuals; it is made up of communities with different cultures, histories and social structures.
- In the grouping of local Churches at the regional level, catholicity appears in its true light. It is the expression of the presence of salvation not in an undifferentiated universe but in humankind as God created it and comes to save it. In the mystery of salvation, human nature is at the same time both assumed in its fullness and cured of what sin has infused into it by way of self-sufficiency, pride, distrust of others, aggressiveness, jealousy, envy, falsehood and hatred. Ecclesial koinonia is the gift by which all humankind is joined together, in the Spirit of the risen Lord. This unity, created by the Spirit, far from lapsing into uniformity, calls for and thus preserves – and, in a certain way, enhances – diversity and particularity.
The Universal Level
- Each local Church is in communion not only with neighbouring Churches, but with the totality of the local Churches, with those now present in the world, those which have been since the beginning, and those which will be in the future, and with the Church already in glory. According to the will of Christ, the Church is one and indivisible, the same always and in every place. Both sides confess, in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, that the Church is one and catholic. Its catholicity embraces not only the diversity of human communities but also their fundamental unity.
- It is clear, therefore, that one and the same faith is to be confessed and lived out in all the local Churches, the same unique Eucharist is to be celebrated everywhere, and one and the same apostolic ministry is to be at work in all the communities. A local Church cannot modify the Creed, formulated by the ecumenical Councils, although the Church ought always “to give suitable answers to new problems, answers based on the Scriptures and in accord and essential continuity with the previous expressions of dogmas” (Bari Document, n.29). Equally, a local Church cannot change a fundamental point regarding the form of ministry by a unilateral decision, and no local Church can celebrate the Eucharist in wilful separation from other local Churches without seriously affecting ecclesial communion. In all of these things one touches on the bond of communion itself – thus, on the very being of the Church.
- It is because of this communion that all the Churches, through canons, regulate everything relating to the Eucharist and the sacraments, the ministry and ordination, and the handing on (paradosis) and teaching (didaskalia) of the faith. It is clear why in this domain canonical rules and disciplinary norms are needed.
- In the course of history, when serious problems arose affecting the universal communion and concord between Churches – in regard either to the authentic interpretation of the faith, or to ministries and their relationship to the whole Church, or to the common discipline which fidelity to the Gospel requires – recourse was made to Ecumenical Councils. These councils were ecumenical not just because they assembled together bishops from all regions and particularly those of the five major sees, Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, according to the ancient order (taxis). It was also because their solemn doctrinal decisions and their common faith formulations, especially on crucial points, are binding for all the Churches and all the faithful, for all times and all places. This is why the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils remain normative.
- The history of the Ecumenical Councils shows what are to be considered their special characteristics. This matter needs to be studied further in our future dialogue, taking account of the evolution of ecclesial structures during recent centuries in the East and the West.
- The ecumenicity of the decisions of a council is recognized through a process of reception of either long or short duration, according to which the people of God as a whole – by means of reflection, discernment, discussion and prayer – acknowledge in these decisions the one apostolic faith of the local Churches, which has always been the same and of which the bishops are the teachers (didaskaloi) and the guardians. This process of reception is differently interpreted in East and West according to their respective canonical traditions.
- Conciliarity or synodality involves, therefore, much more than the assembled bishops. It involves also their Churches. The former are bearers of and give voice to the faith of the latter. The bishops’ decisions have to be received in the life of the Churches, especially in their liturgical life. Each Ecumenical Council received as such, in the full and proper sense, is, accordingly, a manifestation of and service to the communion of the whole Church.
- Unlike diocesan and regional synods, an Ecumenical Council is not an “institution” whose frequency can be regulated by canons; it is rather an “event”, a kairos inspired by the Holy Spirit who guides the Church so as to engender within it the institutions which it needs and which respond to its nature. This harmony between the Church and the councils is so profound that, even after the break between East and West which rendered impossible the holding of Ecumenical Councils in the strict sense of the term, both Churches continued to hold councils whenever serious crises arose. These councils gathered together the bishops of local Churches in communion with the See of Rome or, although understood in a different way, with the See of Constantinople, respectively. In the Roman Catholic Church, some of these councils held in the West were regarded as ecumenical. This situation, which obliged both sides of Christendom to convoke councils proper to each of them, favoured dissensions which contributed to mutual estrangement. The means which will allow the re-establishment of ecumenical consensus must be sought out.
- During the first millennium, the universal communion of the Churches in the ordinary course of events was maintained through fraternal relations between the bishops. These relations, among the bishops themselves, between the bishops and their respective protoi, and also among the protoi themselves in the canonical order (taxis) witnessed by the ancient Church, nourished and consolidated ecclesial communion. History records the consultations, letters and appeals to major sees, especially to that of Rome, which vividly express the solidarity that koinonia creates. Canonical provisions such as the inclusion of the names of the bishops of the principal sees in the diptychs and the communication of the profession of faith to the other patriarchs on the occasion of elections, are concrete expressions of koinonia.
- Both sides agree that this canonical taxis was recognised by all in the era of the undivided Church. Further, they agree that Rome, as the Church that “presides in love” according to the phrase of St Ignatius of Antioch (To the Romans, Prologue), occupied the first place in the taxis, and that the bishop of Rome was therefore the protos among the patriarchs. They disagree, however, on the interpretation of the historical evidence from this era regarding the prerogatives of the bishop of Rome as protos, a matter that was already understood in different ways in the first millennium.
- Conciliarity at the universal level, exercised in the ecumenical councils, implies an active role of the bishop of Rome, as protos of the bishops of the major sees, in the consensus of the assembled bishops. Although the bishop of Rome did not convene the ecumenical councils of the early centuries and never personally presided over them, he nevertheless was closely involved in the process of decision-making by the councils.
- Primacy and conciliarity are mutually interdependent. That is why primacy at the different levels of the life of the Church, local, regional and universal, must always be considered in the context of conciliarity, and conciliarity likewise in the context of primacy.
Concerning primacy at the different levels, we wish to affirm the following points:
- Primacy at all levels is a practice firmly grounded in the canonical tradition of the Church.
- While the fact of primacy at the universal level is accepted by both East and West, there are differences of understanding with regard to the manner in which it is to be exercised, and also with regard to its scriptural and theological foundations.
- In the history of the East and of the West, at least until the ninth century, a series of prerogatives was recognised, always in the context of conciliarity, according to the conditions of the times, for the protos or kephale at each of the established ecclesiastical levels: locally, for the bishop as protos of his diocese with regard to his presbyters and people; regionally, for the protos of each metropolis with regard to the bishops of his province, and for the protos of each of the five patriarchates, with regard to the metropolitans of each circumscription; and universally, for the bishop of Rome as protos among the patriarchs. This distinction of levels does not diminish the sacramental equality of every bishop or the catholicity of each local Church.
- It remains for the question of the role of the bishop of Rome in the communion of all the Churches to be studied in greater depth. What is the specific function of the bishop of the “first see” in an ecclesiology of koinonia and in view of what we have said on conciliarity and authority in the present text? How should the teaching of the first and second Vatican councils on the universal primacy be understood and lived in the light of the ecclesial practice of the first millennium? These are crucial questions for our dialogue and for our hopes of restoring full communion between us.
- We, the members of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, are convinced that the above statement on ecclesial communion, conciliarity and authority represents positive and significant progress in our dialogue, and that it provides a firm basis for future discussion of the question of primacy at the universal level in the Church. We are conscious that many difficult questions remain to be clarified, but we hope that, sustained by the prayer of Jesus “That they may all be one … so that the world may believe” (Jn 17, 21), and in obedience to the Holy Spirit, we can build upon the agreement already reached. Reaffirming and confessing “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4, 5), we give glory to God the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who has gathered us together.
 Orthodox participants felt it important to emphasize that the use of the terms “the Church”, “the universal Church”, “the indivisible Church” and “the Body of Christ” in this document and in similar documents produced by the Joint Commission in no way undermines the self-understanding of the Orthodox Church as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, of which the Nicene Creed speaks. From the Catholic point of view, the same self-awareness applies: the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church “subsists in the Catholic Church” (Lumen Gentium, 8); this does not exclude acknowledgement that elements of the true Church are present outside the Catholic communion.
JOINT INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION FOR THE THEOLOGICAL DIALOGUE BETWEEN
THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE ORTHODOX CHURCH:
SEVENTH PLENARY SESSION
Balamand school of theology
June 17-24, 1993
We publish here two items: 1) The Informative Communiqué from the meeting of the seventh plenary session of the joint international commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church (Balamand, Lebanon, June 17-24, 1993); 2) the document of the joint dialogue commission on the theme: “Uniatism, method of union of the past, and the present search for full communion”.
As with all the results of the joint dialogue commissions, this common document belongs to the responsibility of the Commission itself, until the competent organs of the Catholic Church and of the Orthodox Churches express their judgement in regard to it.
The seventh plenary session of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church took place from June 17th to 24th, 1993, within the magnificent framework of Balamand, close to the monastery dating from the XIIth century and in the buildings of the School of Orthodox Theology “St John Damascene” and of the new Orthodox University which is in full development. His Beatitude Ignatius IV Hazim by his personal presence was a living sign of the generous and cordial hospitality shown to all the participants by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.
The Eucharist was celebrated by the Catholic delegation on Saturday afternoon and by the Orthodox delegation on Sunday morning, each ceremony taking place in the historic church of the monastery with the assistance of a great number of faithful. On Monday, June 21st, all the Patriarchs of the territory of Antioch, both Orthodox and Catholic, were guests of His Beatitude Ignatius IV for lunch. An official delegation representing the commission made a courtesy visit to Their Excellencies, the President of the Republic, Mr. Elias Hraoui, and the President of the Parliament, Mr. Nabeh Berri on Tuesday, June 22nd. The entire Commission then toured the historical center of Beirut and the members were guests at lunch hosted by the Orthodox Archbishop of the capital.
Representatives of nine autocephalous and autonomous Orthodox Churches were present for this plenary session of the Joint International Commission for dialogue. From the Catholic side, twenty-four members of the Commission took part in the meeting.
The theme of the seventh plenary session was entirely centered on the theological and practical questions presented by the existence and pastoral activity of the Oriental Catholic Churches. The profound changes which have taken place in Central and Eastern Europe, involving the rebirth of religious liberty and the resumption of open pastoral activity by the Oriental Catholic Churches, have made these questions the touchstone of the quality of the relations between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches.
At Balamand, the Commission had before it a working paper, developed by the coordinating committee of the Commission during its meeting at Ariccia (Rome) in June 1991 which bears the title: “Uniatism, method of union of the past, and the present search for full communion”. This text was studied and reworked in common, in a frank and brotherly spirit, accompanied by a deep concern for the continuation of the work of fostering the restoration of full communion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
The text finally adopted at Balamand is composed of two parts: 1) Ecclesiological Principles and 2) Practical Rules. In the spirit of the ecclesiology of communion and because of the fact that the Catholic and Orthodox Churches recognize each other as Sister Churches, it was observed that, in the effort to re-establish unity, what is involved is achieving together the will of Christ for those who are His disciples and the design of God for His Church, by means of a common search for full agreement in faith. It is not a question of seeking the conversion of persons from one Church to the other. This latter type of missionary activity, which has been called “uniatism”, cannot be accepted either as a method to follow or as a model for the unity which is being sought by our Churches.
Conscious of the fact that the history of divisions has deeply wounded the memories of the Churches, Catholics and Orthodox are determined to look to the future, with mutual recognition of the necessity for transparent consultation and cooperation at all levels of Church life.
The Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue will now submit the document adopted at Balamand to the authorities of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches for approval and application.
Balamand, June 23rd, 1993
UNIATISM, METHOD OF UNION OF THE PAST,
AND THE PRESENT SEARCH FOR FULL COMMUNION*
- At the request of the Orthodox Churches, the normal progression of the theological dialogue with the Catholic Church has been set aside so that immediate attention might be given to the question which is called “uniatism”.
- With regard to the method which has been called “uniatism”, it was stated at Freising (June 1990) that “we reject it as method for the search for unity because it is opposed to the common tradition of our Churches”.
- Concerning the Oriental Catholic Churches, it is clear that they, as part of the Catholic Communion, have the right to exist and to act in answer to the spiritual needs of their faithful.
- The document prepared at Ariccia by the joint coordinating committee (June 1991) and finished at Balamand (June 1993) states what is our method in the present search for full communion, thus giving the reason for excluding “uniatism” as a method.
- This document is composed of two parts:
1) Ecclesiological principles and
2) Practical rules.
- The division between the Churches of the East and of the West has never quelled the desire for unity wished by Christ. Rather this situation, which is contrary to the nature of the Church, has often been for many the occasion to become more deeply conscious of the need to achieve this unity, so as to be faithful to the Lord’s commandment.
- In the course of the centuries various attempts were made to re-establish unity. They sought to achieve this end through different ways, at times conciliar, according to the political, historical, theological and spiritual situation of each period. Unfortunately, none of these efforts succeeded in re-establishing full communion between the Church of the West and the Church of the East, and at times even made oppositions more acute.
- In the course of the last four centuries, in various parts of the East, initiatives were taken within certain Churches and impelled by outside elements, to restore communion between the Church of the East and the Church of the West. These initiatives led to the union of certain communities with the See of Rome and brought with them, as a consequence, the breaking of communion with their Mother Churches of the East. This took place not without the interference of extraecclesial interests. In this way Oriental Catholic Churches came into being. And so a situation was created which has become a source of conflicts and of suffering in the first instance for the Orthodox but also for Catholics.
- Whatever may have been the intention and the authenticity of the desire to be faithful to the commandment of Christ: “that all may be one” expressed in these partial unions with the See of Rome, it must be recognized that the reestablishment of unity between the Church of the East and the Church of the West was not achieved and that the division remains, embittered by these attempts.
- The situation thus created resulted in fact in tensions and oppositions.
Progressively, in the decades which followed these unions, missionary activity tended to include among its priorities the effort to convert other Christians, individually or in groups, so as “to bring them back” to one’s own Church. In order to legitimize this tendency, a source of proselytism, the Catholic Church developed the theological vision according to which she presented herself as the only one to whom salvation was entrusted. As a reaction, the Orthodox Church, in turn, came to accept the same vision according to which only in her could salvation be found. To assure the salvation of “the separated brethren” it even happened that Christians were rebaptized and that certain requirements of the religious freedom of persons and of their act of faith were forgotten. This perspective was one to which that period showed little sensitivity.
- On the other hand certain civil authorities made attempts to bring back Oriental Catholics to the Church of their Fathers. To achieve this end they did not hesitate, when the occasion was given, to use unacceptable means.
- Because of the way in which Catholics and Orthodox once again consider each other in their relationship to the mystery of the Church and discover each other once again as Sister Churches, this form of “missionary apostolate” described above, and which has been called “uniatism”, can no longer be accepted either as a method to be followed nor as a model of the unity our Churches are seeking.
- In fact, especially since the panorthodox Conferences and the Second Vatican Council, the re- discovery and the giving again of proper value to the Church as communion, both on the part of Orthodox and of Catholics, has radically altered perspectives and thus attitudes. On each side it is recognized that what Christ has entrusted to his Church – profession of apostolic faith, participation in the same sacraments, above all the one priesthood celebrating the one sacrifice of Christ, the apostolic succession of bishops – cannot be considered the exclusive property of one of our Churches. In this context, it is clear that any rebaptism must be avoided.
- It is in this perspective that the Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Churches recognize each other as Sister Churches, responsible together for maintaining the Church of God in fidelity to the divine purpose, most especially in what concerns unity. According to the words of Pope John Paul II, the ecumenical endeavor of the Sister Churches of East and West, grounded in dialogue and prayer, is the search for perfect and total communion which is neither absorption nor fusion but a meeting in truth and love (cf. Slavorum Apostoli, n. 27).
- While the inviolable freedom of persons and their obligation to follow the requirements of their conscience remain secure, in the search for re-establishing unity there is no question of conversion of people from one Church to the other in order to ensure their salvation. There is a question of achieving together the will of Christ for his own and the design of God for his Church by means of a common quest by the Churches for a full accord on the content of the faith and its implications. This effort is being carried on in the current theological dialogue. The present document is a necessary stage in this dialogue.
- The Oriental Catholic Churches who have desired to re-establish full communion with the See of Rome and have remained faithful to it, have the rights and obligations which are connected with this communion. The principles determining their attitude towards Orthodox Churches are those which have been stated by the Second Vatican Council and have been put into practice by the Popes who have clarified the practical consequences flowing from these principles in various documents published since then. These Churches, then, should be inserted, on both local and universal levels, into the dialogue of love, in mutual respect and reciprocal trust found once again, and enter into the theological dialogue, with all its practical implications.
- In this atmosphere, the considerations already presented and the practical guidelines which follow, insofar as they will be effectively received and faithfully observed, are such as to lead to a just and definitive solution to the difficulties which these Oriental Catholic Churches present to the Orthodox Church.
- Towards this end, Pope Paul VI affirmed in his address at the Phanar in July 1967: “It is on the heads of the Churches, of their hierarchy, that the obligation rests to guide the Churches along the way that leads to finding full communion again. They ought to do this by recognizing and respecting each other as pastors of that part of the flock of Christ entrusted to them, by taking care for the cohesion and growth of the people of God, and avoiding everything that could scatter it or cause confusion in its ranks” (Tomos Agapis, n. 172). In this spirit Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I together stated clearly: “We reject every form of proselytism, every attitude which would be or could be perceived to be a lack of respect” (December 7th, 1987).
- Mutual respect between the Churches which find themselves in difficult situations will increase appreciably in the measure that they will observe the following practical rules.
- These rules will not resolve the problems which are worrying us unless each of the parties concerned has a will to pardon, based on the Gospel and, within the context of a constant effort for renewal, accompanied by the unceasing desire to seek the full communion which existed for more than a thousand years between our Churches. It is here that the dialogue of love must be present with a continually renewed intensity and perseverance which alone can overcome reciprocal lack of understanding and which is the necessary climate for deepening the theological dialogue that will permit arriving at full communion.
- The first step to take is to put an end to everything that can foment division, contempt and hatred between the Churches. For this the authorities of the Catholic Church will assist the Oriental Catholic Churches and their communities so that they themselves may prepare full communion between Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The authorities of the Orthodox Church will act in a similar manner towards their faithful. In this way it will be possible to take care of the extremely complex situation that has been created in Eastern Europe, at the same time in charity and in justice, both as regards Catholics and Orthodox.
- Pastoral activity in the Catholic Church, Latin as well as Oriental, no longer aims at having the faithful of one Church pass over to the other; that is to say, it no longer aims at proselytizing among the Orthodox. It aims at answering the spiritual needs of its own faithful and it has no desire for expansion at the expense of the Orthodox Church. Within these perspectives, so that there will be no longer place for mistrust and suspicion, it is necessary that there be reciprocal exchanges of information about various pastoral projects and that thus cooperation between bishops and all those with responsibilities in our Churches, can be set in motion and develop.
- The history of the relations between the Orthodox Church and the Oriental Catholic Churches has been marked by persecutions and sufferings. Whatever may have been these sufferings and their causes, they do not justify any triumphalism; no one can glorify in them or draw an argument from them to accuse or disparage the other Church. God alone knows his own witnesses. Whatever may have been the past, it must be left to the mercy of God, and all the energies of the Churches should be directed towards obtaining that the present and the future conform better to the will of Christ for his own.
- It will also be necessary – and this on the part of both Churches – that the bishops and all those with pastoral responsibilities in them scrupulously respect the religious liberty of the faithful. These, in turn, must be able to express freely their opinion by being consulted and by organizing themselves to this end. In fact, religious liberty requires that, particularly in situations of conflict, the faithful are able to express their opinion and to decide without pressure from outside if they wish to be in communion either with the Orthodox Church or with the Catholic Church. Religious freedom would be violated when, under the cover of financial assistance, the faithful of one Church would be attracted to the other, by promises, for example, of education and material benefits that may be lacking in their own Church. In this context, it will be necessary that social assistance, as well as every form of philanthropic activity be organized with common agreement so as to avoid creating new suspicions.
- Furthermore, the necessary respect for Christian freedom – one of the most precious gifts received from Christ – should not become an occasion for undertaking a pastoral project which may also involve the faithful of other Churches, without previous consultation with the pastors of these Churches. Not only should every form of pressure, of any kind whatsoever, be excluded, but respect for consciences, motivated by an authentic exigency of faith, is one of the principles guiding the pastoral concern of those responsible in the two Churches and should be the object of their common reflection (cf. Gal 5, 13).
- That is why it is necessary to seek and to engage in an open dialogue, which in the first place should be between those who have responsibilities for the Churches at the local level. Those in charge of the communities concerned should create joint local commissions or make effective those which already exist, for finding solutions to concrete problems and seeing that these solutions are applied in truth and love, in justice and peace. If agreement cannot be reached on the local level, the question should be brought to mixed commissions established by higher authorities.
- Suspicion would disappear more easily if the two parties were to condemn violence wherever communities of one Church use it against communities of a Sister Church. As requested by His Holiness Pope John Paul II in his letter of May 31st, 1991, it is necessary that all violence and every kind of pressure be absolutely avoided in order that freedom of conscience be respected. It is the task of those in charge of communities to assist their faithful to deepen their loyalty towards their own Church and towards its traditions and to teach them to avoid not only violence, be that physical, verbal or moral, but also all that could lead to contempt for other Christians and to a counter-witness, completely ignoring the work of salvation which is reconciliation in Christ.
- Faith in sacramental reality implies a respect for the liturgical celebrations of the other Church. The use of violence to occupy a place of worship contradicts this conviction. On the contrary, this conviction sometimes requires that the celebration of other Churches should be made easier by putting at their disposal, by common agreement, one’s own church for alternate celebration at different times in the same building. Still more, the evangelical ethos requires that statements or manifestations which are likely to perpetuate a state of conflict and hinder the dialogue be avoided. Does not St. Paul exhort us to welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us, for the glory of God (Rom 15:7)?
- Bishops and priests have the duty before God to respect the authority which the Holy Spirit has given to the bishops and priests of the other Church and for that reason to avoid interfering in the spiritual life of the faithful of that Church. When cooperation becomes necessary for the good of the faithful, it is then required that those responsible to an agreement among themselves, establish for this mutual assistance clear principles which are known to all, and act subsequently with frankness, clarity, and with respect for the sacramental discipline of the other Church.
In this context, to avoid all misunderstanding and to develop confidence between the two Churches, it is necessary that Catholic and Orthodox bishops of the same territory consult with each other before establishing Catholic pastoral projects which imply the creation of new structures in regions which traditionally form part of the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church, in view to avoid parallel pastoral activities which would risk rapidly degenerating into rivalry or even conflicts.
- To pave the way for future relations between the two Churches, passing beyond the outdated ecclesiology of return to the Catholic Church connected with the problem which is the object of this document, special attention will be given to the preparation of future priests and of all those who, in any way, are involved in an apostolic activity carried on in a place where the other Church traditionally has its roots. Their education should be objectively positive with respect of the other Church. First of all, everyone should be informed of the apostolic succession of the other Church and the authenticity of its sacramental life. One should also offer all a correct and comprehensive knowledge of history aiming at a historiography of the two Churches which is in agreement and even may be common. In this way, the dissipation of prejudices will be helped, and the use of history in a polemical manner will be avoided. This presentation will lead to an awareness that faults leading to separation belong to both sides, leaving deep wounds on each side.
- The admonition of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor 6:1-7) will be recalled. It recommends that Christians resolve their differences through fraternal dialogue, thus avoiding recourse to the intervention of the civil authorities for a practical solution to the problems which arise between Churches or local communities. This applies particularly to the possession or return of ecclesiastical property. These solutions should not be based only on past situations or rely solely on general juridical principles, but they must also take into account the complexity of present realities and local circumstances.
- It is in this spirit that it will be possible to meet in common the task of re-evangelization of our secularized world. Efforts will also be made to give objective news to the mass-media especially to the religious press in order to avoid tendentious and misleading information.
- It is necessary that the Churches come together in order to express gratitude and respect towards all, known and unknown – bishops, priests or faithful, Orthodox, Catholic whether Oriental or Latin – who suffered, confessed their faith, witnessed their fidelity to the Church, and, in general, towards all Christians, without discrimination, who underwent persecutions. Their sufferings call us to unity and, on our part, to give common witness in response to the prayer of Christ “that all may be one, so that the world may believe” (John 17,21).
- The International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, at its plenary meeting in Balamand, strongly recommends that these practical rules be put into practice by our Churches, including the Oriental Catholic Churches who are called to take part in this dialogue which should be carried on in the serene atmosphere necessary for its progress, towards the re-establishment of full communion.
- By excluding for the future all proselytism and all desire for expansion by Catholics at the expense of the Orthodox Church, the commission hopes that it has overcome the obstacles which impelled certain autocephalous Churches to suspend their participation in the theological dialogue and that the Orthodox Church will be able to find itself altogether again for continuing the theological work already so happily begun.
Balamand (Lebanon), June 23rd, 1993
* The text was originally drafted in French and translated into English during the meeting.