Ecumenism and papal primacy: Vatican proposes reforms

 — June 13, 202413 juin 2024

The reason why the 2024 edition of the Vatican yearbook has re-inserted “Patriarch of the West” as one of the historical titles of the pope appears to be a response to concerns expressed by Orthodox leaders and theologians.

For months after the yearbook, the Annuario Pontificio, was released, the Vatican press office said it had no explanation for the reappearance of the title, which Pope Benedict XVI had dropped in 2006.

But new documents from the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity place the change squarely in the middle of a broad discussion among all mainline Christian churches on the papacy and the potential role of the bishop of Rome in a more united Christian community.

Members of the dicastery proposed that “a clearer distinction be made between the different responsibilities of the Pope, especially between his ministry as head of the Catholic Church and his ministry of unity among all Christians, or more specifically between his patriarchal ministry in the Latin Church and his primatial ministry in the communion of Churches.”

For the Orthodox, the papal title of “Patriarch of the West” is an acknowledgement that his direct jurisdiction does not extend to their traditional territories in the East.

Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, the representative of the Armenian Apostolic Church to the Holy See, told reporters June 13, “The recent reinstatement of the title of ‘Patriarch of the West’ among the pope’s historical titles is important, since this title, inherited from the first millennium, evidences his brotherhood with the other patriarchs.”
Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, said that “when Pope Benedict XVI canceled this title and when Pope Francis introduced it again, they did comment” on why they made the decision. “But I am convinced they did not want to do something against anyone, but both wanted to do something ecumenically respectful.”

Twenty-nine years ago, St. John Paul II called for an ecumenical reflection on how the pope as bishop of Rome could exercise his ministry “as a service of love recognized by all concerned.”

Already in 1967 St. Paul VI had recognized that the papacy was “undoubtedly the gravest obstacle on the path of ecumenism.”

Following St. John Paul’s ecumenical invitation in 1995, studies were conducted, meetings were held and reports were made.

The pace picked up with the pontificate of Pope Francis and his frequent references to being the bishop of Rome, his reliance on an international Council of Cardinals to advise him on issues of governance and his continuing efforts to reform and expand the Synod of Bishops and the practice of “synodality.”

Over the past three decades, the Catholic Church’s ecumenical partners responded to St. John Paul’s request by questioning things like papal infallibility and claims of universal jurisdiction, yet many also expressed support for trying to find an acceptable way for the bishop of Rome to serve as a point of unity for all Christians.

According to members of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, there has been “a significant and growing theological convergence” both on the need for a universal figure at the service of Christian unity as well as for Christian churches and communities, including the Catholic Church, to learn from each other’s styles and structures for consultation, governance and leadership.

Staff of the dicastery have spent years summarizing the reflections and released their work June 13 as a “study document” titled, “The Bishop of Rome. Primacy and Synodality in the Ecumenical Dialogues and in the Responses to the Encyclical ‘Ut unum sint.’” The publication also included a series of proposals titled, “Towards an Exercise of Primacy in the 21st Century,” which was approved in 2021 by the cardinals and bishops who are members of the dicastery.

Koch wrote in the preface to the study document that Francis approved its publication.

The role a pope could play in a re-united Christian church obviously involves practical considerations about power and authority and how they are exercised. But for the ecumenical dialogues, the first considerations are tradition — what was the role of the bishop of Rome in the early centuries before Christianity split — and theological, including what is the church and how is it different from other kinds of organizations.

The document approved by dicastery members said the dialogues have “enabled a deeper analysis of some essential ecclesiological themes such as: the existence and interdependence of primacy and synodality at each level of the Church; the understanding of synodality as a fundamental quality of the whole Church, including the active participation of all the faithful; and the distinction between and interrelatedness of collegiality and synodality,” that is, between the shared responsibility of bishops and the shared responsibility of all the baptized.

One crucial issue for many Christians is papal infallibility; in fact, “infallibility” is cited 56 times in the documents released June 13.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms: The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful — who confirms his brethren in the faith — he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.”

Catholic and other theologians and bishops, the new documents said, have called for “a Catholic ‘re-reception,’ ‘re-interpretation,’ ‘official interpretation,’ ‘updated commentary’ or even ‘rewording’ of the teachings of Vatican I,” the council held in 1869-70 that solemnly proclaimed papal infallibility under some circumstances.

Emphasizing those limited circumstances does not seem to suffice. For example, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission in 1981 said, “The ascription to the bishop of Rome of infallibility under certain conditions has tended to lend exaggerated importance to all his statements.”

One thing everyone involved in ecumenical dialogue agrees on, though, is that the unity of the early Christian communities was expressed by their leaders and members visiting one another, praying together and working together. The new documents called for those efforts to continue and to grow.

Posted: June 13, 2024 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=14322
Categories: CNS, DocumentsIn this article: dialogue, Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, papacy, petrine ministry, Ut Unum Sint
Transmis : 13 juin 2024 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=14322
Catégorie : CNS, DocumentsDans cet article : dialogue, Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, papacy, petrine ministry, Ut Unum Sint


Raphael Schutz, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, speaks with Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican's foreign minister, during a reception June 6 at the Jewish Museum of Rome

Amid prayers for peace, Vatican-Israeli tensions were on display

 — June 7, 20247 juin 2024

The Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel and Israel’s massive military response in Gaza have led to strong papal pleas for peace but also to Vatican-Israeli diplomatic tensions.

At a concert and reception June 6, Raphael Schutz, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, told guests, “It is no secret that after Oct. 7, at some junctions, Israel and the Holy See have not seen eye to eye the same reality in the Middle East. In such moments, as well as during my 41 years as a diplomat, I’ve believed that being frank and speaking clearly was no opposite to being diplomatic.”

Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister, told the ambassador and his guests, “In conflicts, the Holy See must adhere to the principle of neutrality, which does not mean being morally indifferent.”
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Members of the official Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission pose for a photo during their meeting May 11-18, 2024, in Strasbourg, France. Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, England, center left, is the Catholic co-chair of the commission, and Archbishop Philip Freier of Melbourne, Australia, center right, is the Anglican co-chair

Anglican-Catholic dialogue examines churches’ ethical teachings

 — May 29, 202429 mai 2024

Recognizing that the Christian churches continually are called to grapple with new moral issues and that reaching different conclusions can complicate the search for Christian unity, a commission of Catholic and Anglican bishops and theologians has been studying how their traditions make decisions and what they can learn from each other.

Members of the official Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) met May 11-18 in Strasbourg, France, to continue their examination of “how the Church local, regional and universal discerns right ethical teaching,” according to a statement released May 27.

“For the first time in its work, ARCIC III has chosen to include two case studies as part of its reflection — one where Catholics and Anglicans reached broadly the same teaching, and one where they did not. These case studies, on Enslavement and Contraception, illustrate the doctrinal and structural similarities and differences between the two communions and also serve to highlight unresolved questions,” the statement said.
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Christian Witness in an Increasingly Multi-Faith (and Secular) Canada | One Body

 — May 16, 202416 mai 2024

A few weeks ago, I attended the “Grand Opening” event of a new Buddhist Temple recently constructed in my north Edmonton neighbourhood. It was a beautiful event, marked by ritual and ceremony, hospitality and fellowship. It also involved a fair bit of informal interfaith dialogue with the monks of the temple and between fellow visitors of various traditions, who, like me, appreciated the opportunity to see inside the temple and to learn what this new community was all about.

This is now the third new non-Christian prayer space and second Buddhist temple to open in my neighbourhood in recent years, the other being a new mosque, adding to the array of Christian churches and other prayer spaces already present there. It also reflects the diversity of the population that now lives in “our part” of the city: a population that values spiritual realities and draws life from religious traditions “ever ancient, ever new,” to steal St. Augustine’s formulation.
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Representatives from the three partner churches stand in front of the construction site at Bloor Street United Church in Toronto. The national offices for the Anglican, Presbyterian, and United churches will be moving to the newly-built offfice space in 2026. From left to right: Rev. Douglas Ducharme, minister of Bloor Street United, Rev. Victor Kim, principal clerk of the PCC, Rev. Michael Blair, general secretary of the UCC, Rev. Alan Perry, general secretary of the ACC, and Bob Hilliard, trustee of Bloor Street United

Anglican, Presbyterian, and United churches sign lease to share national office space

 — May 10, 202410 mai 2024

It’s official; the national offices of the Anglican Church of Canada, the United Church of Canada, and the Presbyterian Church in Canada will be moving in together after signing leases to share space at a redeveloped church site in downtown Toronto.

General Secretary of the ACC General Synod, Archdeacon Alan Perry, said in a May 7 staff email, followed by a public news release the following day, that all three churches had signed leases to share national office space at the renovated site of Bloor Street United Church, located at 300 Bloor Street West in the Annex-University of Toronto neighbourhood. Construction on the new facility is “well underway,” he added, with a target to move in by spring 2026.
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Candles for peace floating on the river Thames near Oxford, England

Called to Be Salt and Light: Open Up Space to Stand for Peace

 — May 10, 202410 mai 2024

The Canadian Council of Churches’ Commission on Justice and Peace deplores the violence and cycle of reprisals in Palestine and Israel that is leading to thousands of lives lost and even more death, suffering, and trauma to come.

We call on Christian communities across Canada to be salt and light in a way that opens up space to stand for peace with justice for all.
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Pope Francis gives a gift to Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury during a meeting with Anglican primates in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican

Meeting Anglican primates, Pope Francis talks about overcoming divisions

 — May 2, 20242 mai 2024

Unity within Christian communities and the unity of all the churches will grow only as believers draw closer to Jesus and learn to be honest in examining if they are listening to the Holy Spirit or to their own preferences, Pope Francis told leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

“We are called to pray and to listen to one another, seeking to understand each other’s concerns and asking ourselves, before enquiring of others, whether we have been docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit or prey to our own personal or group opinions,” Pope Francis said May 2 as he welcomed to the Vatican Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and the primates of the Anglican churches.

“Surely, the divine way of seeing things will never be one of division, separation or the interruption of dialogue,” the pope said. “Rather, God’s way leads us to cling ever more fervently to the Lord Jesus, for only in communion with him will we find full communion with one another.”

Pope Francis read his speech to the group, but also set aside time to respond to the primates’ questions, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, told reporters. The questions, she said, allowed the pope to talk about “his own passions in ministry, unity in diversity, harmony, and he said in several ways that ‘war is always, always, always a defeat.'”
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The skyline of Rome from the south of Vatican City with the dome of St. Peter's Basilica on the left and the Apostolic Palace in the centre

2024 Anglican Primates’ Meeting will be held in Rome for pilgrimage, consultation, and meeting with Pope Francis

 — Apr. 24, 202424 avril 2024

Senior archbishops, presiding bishops, and moderators of the churches of the Anglican Communion will meet in Rome for the 2024 Primates’ Meeting (April 29-May 3). Conceived as a pilgrimage, they will pray and study Scripture together, visit holy sites in Rome, and reflect together about the mission and witness of the Church in the world.

In the first gathering of Anglican Primates to be held in Rome, the Primates’ programme will include a meeting with Pope Francis and conversation with Cardinal Grech about the meaning and promise of synodality for the whole Church.

The city of Rome is full of historical and spiritual significance for the whole Christian world. Pope Gregory the Great sent Augustine of Canterbury on mission to England in 597. Especially since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), Rome has been a centre of inter-Christian encounter and ecumenical research.
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The Fourth Global Gathering was held in Accra, Ghana by the Global Christian Forum

Message of the Fourth Global Gathering of the Global Christian Forum

 — Apr. 20, 202420 avril 2024

The rain came with a cool breeze, driving away the humid heat through the open windows of the church. An auspicious blessing from God! So began the collective story of the 4th Global Gathering of the Global Christian Forum in Ghana, a country where Christianity is vibrant and thriving. An outpouring of hospitality and generosity characterised our time together from 16-19 April, 2024.

The very first youth gathering in GCF’s history preceded the main Forum from 13-15 April. The diversity and vision of the young adults gave energy to their own conversations about justice, hope, and reconciliation.

This is the 25th Anniversary of the Global Christian Forum, something we celebrated joyfully. Throughout its existence, the GCF has been a unique space for all major streams of Christianity to be together for encounter and prayer. It is the broadest expression of Christian faith and one that reflects the movement of the majority of churches from the global north to the global south.
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Mosaic depicting the baptism of Christ in the Arian Baptistry in Ravenna, Italy

Baptism in Ecumenical Dialogue: Questions about the Trinitarian Formula | One Body

 — Apr. 12, 202412 avril 2024

With our recent celebration of the Easter Vigil in mind, it’s a good time to reflect on the ecumenical significance of baptism and offer a brief review of some of the dialogues that have taken place on this topic. From a Catholic perspective, the ecumenical significance of baptism is clearly affirmed in Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism, which states that: “all who have been justified by faith in baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers [and sisters] by the children of the Catholic Church” (#3).
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