Saturday, September 15, 2007

Report on the 3rd European Ecumenical Assembly

The 3rd European Ecumenical Assembly, which met in Subiu, Romania from 4-9 September 2007, adopted as their theme The Light of Christ Shines Upon All. Hope for Renewal and Unity in Europe. One of the participants in this gathering, a Catholic priest, offered a presentation last night, which I was able to attend. He spoke both of his experience at Subiu, and also of his vision of the ecumenical movement in general.

The presentation focused primarily, indeed almost exclusively, on the relationship of the Catholic Church with the schismatic Orthodox Churches of the East. I'll offer just two observations on the presentation. First, I was delighted that he urged the Eastern Catholic Churches united with Rome to cling tenaciously their own unique traditions, to resist the easy path of adopting Roman habits. Second, and more negatively, I am rather uncomfortable (that might be putting it too mildly) with the notion put forward that the Orthodox ought only to be bound to believe, in regards to the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, those aspects of the doctrine that developed in the first millennium of the Church. N.B. the de Fide dogma of papal infallibility was solemnly defined only in 1870 by the First Vatican Council's decree Dei Filius.

When the students were offered the opportunity of putting questions to our guest, I asked the following: "What, if any, do you think the significance of Pope Benedict's initiative, which takes effect today, of de-restricting the traditional liturgy of the Latin Church, will be in regards to the Orthodox, who obviously value so highly their own traditional liturgies?"

I was rather disappointed with his answer, although I appreciated the honesty of his initial response. He admitted that it is not something he has much familiarity with, although he would suppose a favorable reaction amongst the Orthodox in general. However, he then went on with the usual characterizations of the Traditional Latin Mass: mumbled prayers in a dead language, old ladies praying the rosary, etc. Ah well, yesterday was still a day for rejoicing in the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and in the liberalization of our beloved rite of Mass.

But it behooves us to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: in Whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection: by Whom we are saved, and delivered. May God have mercy on us and bless us: may he cause the light of His countenance to shine upon us, and may He have mercy on us.

Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

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