JOHN PAUL II TO ENCOUNTER OF 
EASTERN CATHOLIC CHURCHES IN AMERICA AND OCEANIA 


Pope John Paul II sent a special message to Cardinal Achille Silvestrini,
Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Papal envoy to the
First Encounter of Bishops and Religious Superiors of the Eastern Catholic
Churches in America and Oceania being held in Boston from 7 to 12 of
November. 



To My Venerable Brother 
Cardinal Achille Silvestrini
Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches 

I am pleased to send greetings through you to those taking part in the
meeting of Bishops and Religious Superiors of the Eastern Catholic
Churches in America and Oceania with the Congregation for the Oriental
Churches which will take place in Boston on 7 - 12 November 1999. I send
a special word of thanks to Cardinal Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston,
whose generous hospitality has made this meeting possible. 

Following the similar gathering of those responsible for the Eastern
Catholic Churches in Europe, held in July 1997, and encouraged by the
many fruits born of that meeting, your Congregation saw the usefulness of
promoting this new opportunity for joint study and assessment. The
purpose of this meeting is to bring the different Eastern Churches together
for reflection and common prayer in order that, together with the
Congregation, they may recognize the unique characteristics of their
presence in America and Oceania and identify paths of commitment for the
future. 

This is a particularly valuable opportunity for the Congregation, since it is in
coming together with the leaders of the Churches which it serves and in
listening to their needs that your Dicastery is best able to fulfil its role of
assisting the Successor of Peter in his own ministry of service. But it is a
most precious moment also and above all for the Eastern Churches
themselves, because it is through an exchange of experiences and
reflections that they will be able to discern the voice of the Spirit who
guides the Church on her journey through time. 

Attentive to the Spirit, the Bishops will be able to identify certain common
lines of action in responding to the needs and expectations of their own
communities and of the men and women of today. A common strategy is
necessary not only if the proclamation of the Gospel is to have greater
force and relevance, but also if it is to be a visible sign of the communion
of the entire Church in the rich variety of her theological, spiritual, liturgical
and canonical patrimony, a patrimony of which all her members partake to
their mutual benefit. 

As you engage in the work of these next few days, the Bishop of Rome -
the Church which presides in charity - accompanies you with his prayers. I
ask the Lord to grant that the Eastern Catholic Churches, in fidelity to their
historical roots and with careful discernment of the social realities in which
they live and minister, will have the courage to walk the prophetic path
which the Spirit is indicating to the followers of Jesus Christ at the
approach of the Third Christian Millennium. 

Here I would like to recall certain criteria, entrusting them to your joint
reflection, which came out of the Special Assembly for America of the
Synod of Bishops, held in the Vatican from 16 November to 12 December
1997. Although addressing the specific situation in America, these
observations apply equally to the Church in Oceania. 

In my Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, 
I wrote: "Immigration is an almost constant feature of America's history
from the beginning of evangelization to our own day. As part of this
complex phenomenon, we see that in recent times different parts of
America have welcomed many members of Eastern Churches who, for
various reasons, have left their native lands. A first wave of immigration
came especially from Western Ukraine; and then it involved the nations of
the Middle East" (No. 17). This immigration came to involve all the Eastern
Churches, including those of other regions, for example India. Thus it was
made "pastorally necessary to establish an Eastern Catholic hierarchy for
these Catholic immigrants and their descendants" (ibid.). This context
allows us to address an issue which is really the primary object of this
meeting: the "diaspora". 

I encourage all of you to study this question in depth. 
The fundamental principle which your reflections must always bear in
mind can also be found in that same Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation:
"The Synod Fathers recalled the norms given by the Second Vatican
Council, which recognize that the Eastern Churches 'have the right and the
duty to govern themselves according to their own particular discipline',
given the mission they have of bearing witness to an ancient doctrinal,
liturgical and monastic tradition. Moreover, these Churches have a duty to
maintain their own disciplines, since these 'correspond better to the
customs of their faithful and are judged to be better suited to provide for the
good of souls'" (ibid.). 

The Eastern Catholic Churches are thus called to maintain a 
twofold fidelity. First is fidelity to the traditions which have been
handed down to them, so that they may in turn hand them on faithfully;
useful in this regard are the bonds which unite them to their own Mother
Churches. Second is fidelity to the men and women of today with their joys
and hopes, their sorrows and pain, their desires and expectations, as they
thirst for the truth and the fullness of life that finds its source only in God;
this is faithfulness to the continuing search, especially in
consumer-oriented societies, for the deeper meaning of life. 

This twofold fidelity is fidelity to God and to his revelation - shining brightly
 in the many different traditions which come from the Apostles through the Fathers (cf.
Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on Eastern Catholic
Churches Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 1) - and fidelity to man and to his need
of God, in the various ways in which this is expressed. 
In the course of your work together you should not fail to reflect upon the
situation created by the presence of Eastern Catholics in territories where
the majority of Catholics are of the Latin tradition. 

As I also noted in my
Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America: "The universal
Church needs a synergy between the particular Churches of East and
West so that she may breathe with her two lungs, in the hope of one day
doing so in perfect communion between the Catholic Church and the
separated Eastern Churches. Therefore, we cannot but rejoice that the
Eastern Churches have in recent times taken root in America alongside
the Latin Churches present there from the beginning, thus making the
catholicity of the Lord's Church appear more clearly" (No. 17). I therefore
remind you of the need to establish and foster an ever deeper relationship
of fraternal communion between the Eastern Catholic Churches and the
Latin Church. 

In fact, there can be no doubt, as I emphasized in Ecclesia in
America, that "this fraternal cooperation, while offering valuable help to the
Eastern Churches of recent foundation in America, will certainly also
enrich the particular Churches of the Latin rite with the spiritual heritage of
the Eastern Christian tradition" (No. 38). I express the hope that all the
leaders of the Eastern Catholic Churches will feel the call to be a concrete
sign for the men and women of their own countries and cultures of the love
that is the distinguishing mark of Christ's disciples. 

I ask you to convey to
them my invitation to work together in bringing about that unity which is
born of the richness and harmony of variety, so that they may show forth
the overflowing richness of God's revelation and come to identify - along
the lines of what is suggested in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Ecclesia in America (cf. No. 38) - practical ways of making possible the
experience of communion. In this way, all will be able to rejoice in the fruits
so far produced and, in genuine concern for others and with enthusiasm,
will be able to continue along the path that stretches out before us. 

This work must find its inspiration in the central mystery of our faith: the
Incarnation of the Son of God. It is Jesus Christ, true God and true man,
who is the highest expression of fidelity to God and to man. It must be the
incarnate Christ - the subject of our contemplation on our pilgrim way to
the Holy Year, the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 - who guides our steps
and enlightens our hearts. Your coming together and the joint celebration
of the Divine Liturgy must be an occasion of true encounter with Christ the
cornerstone, the foundation of all our projects and plans. 

Imploring the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who humbly
welcomed Christ into her womb and generously gave him to the whole
world, I ask the Father to pour out the gift of his Spirit upon all those taking
part in this meeting and upon their respective Churches, so that they may
shine brightly as a sacrament of the Risen Christ, bringing the younger
generations in America and Oceania "to know Jesus Christ, so that they
may follow him and find in him their peace and joy" (cf. Ecclesia in
America, 76). 

With these sentiments I cordially impart to you and to all the participants in
this meeting my Apostolic Blessing. 

Ioannes Paulus P.P. II

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