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 Special Features



Jubilee Year and Eastern Catholic Churches 
European Synod of Bishops Oct 99


VATICAN ( - 21-Oct-99 --The Congregation for the Eastern Churches will hold a meeting in the United States November 7-12 with the leaders of the Catholic Eastern Churches of America and Oceania, according to an announcement made on Thursday by Cardinal Achilles Silvestrini, Prefect of the congregation, in the Vatican as he presented a new document aimed to help the Eastern Churches celebrate the Jubilee Year 2000.

Focusing on the difficulties in the growth of the diaspora of the Eastern Christians in countries richer than their place of origin, this meeting will gather in Boston 120 bishops, priests, monks, and nuns, representing almost all the Catholic Eastern Churches, including the Armenian, Chaldean, Coptic, Ethiopian, Maronite, Melkite, Romanian, Ruthenian, Syrian, Syro-Malabar, Slovak, and Ukrainian Churches. 

Representatives of the countries of origin of each one of these Churches will also take part in the meeting, in addition to the members of Congregation for the Eastern Churches. Hosted by Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, they will be able to exchange
their experiences and to work in small groups to reflect on the future of these communities in modern society to which they have sometimes ill-adapted, and where they are often likely to lose to their identity.

"The number of the faithful of the Eastern Rite who reside in the countries of America and Oceania is very high," Cardinal Silvestrini said in a news conference on Thursday, while insisting on the importance of this meeting in which he too will take part, thus giving up the opportunity to accompany Pope John Paul II to India and Georgia although his Congregation is directly concerned with the Catholics of Georgia.

This meeting of the representatives of the Eastern Catholic Communities is the fourth of this type. In 1996, the Congregation for the Eastern Churches organized a Synod of bishops of the
Syro-Malabars of India in the Vatican, followed in 1997 by a meeting of bishops and religious superiors of the Catholic Eastern Churches of Europe at Nyiregyhaza in Hungary. Lastly, at the beginning of this year, there was a Council of the Catholic Patriarchs of the Orient which was held in Lebanon, gathering the bishops of the Middle East.

In addition to these meetings, the Congregation for the Eastern Churches published a work of some 130 pages for Catholics of the Eastern rites. Entitled "The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and the Eastern Churches," it offered concrete theological and spiritual instruction on how Catholics of Eastern rite can live the Jubilee.

Insisting particularly on the ecumenical dimension of the celebration of the Jubilee, the document suggested that the Catholic and Orthodox Churches use this occasion to celebrate together "with
signs of forgiveness given and received." The statement added, "The Catholic Eastern Churches are invited to seek with their Christian brothers -- with all those who belong to the same liturgical
tradition -- possible forms of common celebration of the Holy Year, which can become occasions of meeting, prayer and dialogue."

The document recommended that priests of the Eastern Rites to place greater emphasis on their homilies during liturgy, to avoid, either through omission or excessive focus on "some
circumstance or an ideology" on some subject "of national culture or denominational polemic."

Lastly, it encouraged the Eastern Churches "to give up the pure nostalgia of the past" and to make "courageous choices ... to make their organizations more transparent, more modern, and more effective ... to renew vitality in the institutions and the actions of the Church" by avoiding "only repetitions of the actions of the past."

Lastly, for pilgrimages to Rome to be organized by the Catholic communities of the Eastern rite, the document listed the churches and centers of interest in Rome which relate to them specifically. It stated for example that near the Holy Gate of St. Peter's Basilica is an inscription in Greek and Latin which points out the lifting in 1965 of the reciprocal excommunications which were exchanged in 1054 between the Roman Church and the Greek Church It also listed the
churches of Rome where these Catholics can find celebrations in their rite, as well as the rooms of the Vatican Museum where Eastern icons are displayed, or the chapels of Saints Cyril and Methodius, apostles of the Slavs in the 9th century, which is in the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica.

Currently published only in Italian, this document will soon be published in French and English.


VATICAN CITY, OCT 21, 1999 (VIS) - A document from the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, entitled "The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and the Eastern Catholic Churches," was presented this morning in the Holy See Press Office.

Cardinal Achille Silvestrini and Msgr. Claudio Gugerotti, respectively
prefect and under-secretary of the congregation, participated in the press conference, as did Msgr. Michel Berger, bureau chief of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church.

Cardinal Silvestrini recalled that "the Eastern Catholic Churches--that is, those Churches that belong to the Christian east and have their spiritual treasures in common with their brothers of the Orthodox Churches, but at the same time live full communion with the Pope-- do not have an easy life. Recovering from severe persecution by the atheist regime of central and eastern Europe or weakened by social and political instability in the Middle East, they also find themselves the subject of a heated debate within the Orthodox Churches."

In reference to the document being presented today, he affirmed that its aim is to "make it known that the (Christian) east has something to say on the values of the upcoming Holy Year and on the way it should be lived. This will also help the Latin Church to integrate the general
considerations and the sensibility that the (Christian) east helps to
illuminate, into its own way of celebrating the Jubilee."

Msgr. Gugerotti spoke of the first part of the document, "The Jubilee in the Eastern Catholic Churches," whose central point, he said, is
constituted by the affirmation that the "fundamental way for a Church to celebrate the Jubilee is through the liturgy."

The under-secretary said that the document highlights the necessity ofliving the Jubilee as "an occasion for ecumenical encounter, ever more urgent in order to recreate a fraternal atmosphere within the Christian east, both Catholic and Orthodox."

"For Eastern Catholics, who have spilt their blood in order to preserve
union with the Bishop of Rome, coming to Rome means demonstrating and celebrating this bond of full communion with the Successor of Peter."

On the subject of spiritual guidelines, he highlighted "the eastern
manner of living penitence and reconciliation, that gives particular
emphasis to fasting and asceticism."

In closing, Msgr. Gugerotti mentioned some pastoral suggestions, such as the summons to "renovate Churches, abandoning pure nostalgia and making their structures more transparent, up-to-date and efficient," and the call to "take special care with liturgical homilies."

"These are merely suggestions, it is up to the synods and the individual eastern bishops to adopt them and enrich them with other specific contributions."

Msgr. Michel Berger spoke about the Oriental Church's splendid spiritual, artistic and cultural legacy in Rome. He said that "the Eastern Christian heritage which enriches the patrimony of Rome is so immense as to make one think that there is a fragment of the East on the banks of the Tiber."

He then gave an historical overview of the contributions to Roman
civilization by the Eastern Churches, highlighting "the saints and men of Eastern culture who came to Rome," and naming in particular the Slav brothers and saints, Cyril and Methodius.

He also underscored the presence of monks and the spread of monasticism in the West, recalling that "one of the most famous monasteries in Rome, St. Saba, was founded on the Aventine Hill, towards the end of the sixth or beginning of the seventh century, by Eastern monks who came from the monastery of the same name in Palestine." 

In particular he pointed to the contributions of the first generations of Eastern monks in Rome in the fields of hagiography, hymnography and Byzantine music.

Msgr. Berger remarked that other Oriental treasures, such as Byzantine art, frescoes, mosaics and icons, can be found today in countless churches and monasteries of Rome. And, he said, if the Oriental influence in art and culture was notable in the early centuries, it became even more so between the end of the sixth and eighth centuries when there were a number of Greek Popes. This was a time when the Greek population in Rome grew, as did monasteries and artwork in churches such as Santa Maria in Cosmedin. 


                                                                             nave of Santa Maria in Cosmedin



Rumanian Church Representative Asks Forgiveness from Uniates 

Bishops attending the Synod for Europe
had concluded their talks, time was given to
"fraternal delegates" of other Christian
confessions to address the assembly. The
archbishop of the Rumanian Orthodox
Church spoke words of reconciliation and
forgiveness "for the suffering endured
because of us"
by the Uniates--Catholics
of the Byzantine rite, who during the
Communist regime were persecuted by the
Ukrainian and Rumanian authorities and
forced to join the Orthodox Church. The
speaker was the most applauded since the
beginning of the Synod on October 1. 
The applause was long and liberating, as
the words expressed hopes awaited for a

Young Archbishop Iosif,
responsible for the Rumanian Patriarchy for
Western and Southern Europe, pronounced
the words clearly and sincerely, as though
responding to a request that had never
been articulated -- at least not officially. 
After referring to John Paul II's recent visit to
Bucharest, Iosif stressed that "the unity of
the Church could convert man to a real
union that would overcome all kinds of
cultural, linguistic or other differences. In so
far as the Church is concerned, for us the
greatest sign of love for the man of today,
for the Europe of today, for the world, would
be to find unity in this Church once again. In
order to bring this about, we all need to
forgive one another reciprocally, to ascend
the cross of forgiveness to see with

experience that hope of which the Lord is



Response by Editor of "La Pensee Russe"

VATICAN CITY, OCT 20 (ZENIT).- Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Rome's dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church has been one of the thorniest problems of ecumenism. Among the latest signs of the distancing of relationships is the fact that the Moscow Patriarchy has decided not to attend the meeting of religions that will take place in the Vatican toward the end of this month of October.

By special invitation, Irina IIovaiski Giorgi-Alberti is attending the current Synod of Bishops for Europe. She is editor of the weekly "La Pensee Russe," -- published simultaneously in Moscow and Paris, and director of a Christian radio, which has been transmitting directly from Moscow for the past four years. Therefore, she is involved in Christian and ecumenical media. She is also known for having been Alexander Solzjenitsin's assistant during his years of exile.

Speaking at the Synod, she said that "the desert of atheism that was dominant for 70 years can only disappear slowly. 'Who is this God of Whom you speak to us?' is a question often asked of us. And another is, 'why do you call yourselves Christians if, while adoring the same God, you are divided among yourselves?' "

"The evangelization of Russia is a commitment of a difficulty that is unimaginable," Giorgi-Alberti explained. "Perhaps it is enough to mention the fact that the number of practicing believers -- including all the Christian denominations, is more or less between 2-3% of the population. The Russian Orthodox Church did not think Communism would fall, and was not ready to answer the questions and challenges that were awaiting it. 

It still isn't; because, above all, it is a victim of a terrible temptation -- involving the top hierarchy especially: it allows itself to be used so that it can become a kind of ideology to substitute Marxism-Leninism; this is what has led it to isolate itself from the Western Christian world, and especially to appear hostile to it, either openly or with alibis. One of these alibis is the accusation of proselytism. I can vouch for the fact that this proselytism does not exist," Giorgi-Alberti said emphatically.

"This rejection of unity is caused by politics, not religion; a refusal to open the doors to Christian brothers of the West and, to the Holy Father in particular." In an emotional tone, Giorgi-Alberti turned to the Pope and said: "Many in Russia have requested me to ask you for forgiveness for this. Many in Russia, among those who have found Christ or are sincerely seeking him, have begged me to tell you that you must not accept the political games of the top hierarchy as an honest expression of their feelings. Above all, they implore you to forgive them, not to abandon them, and not to forget them; they do not want you to fall into the traps often set so that you will distance yourself from them. 

If this were to happen, it would really be the end of Russia. If the end has not come it is to a large extent, and I repeat it again, thanks to Your Holiness, and on behalf of those in Russia who know it, I was asked to say to you, Holy Father: may God fully reward you." 


"The 'Europeanization' of the European Union can be achieved only if integration is supported by spiritual renewal, and Jesus Christ is the key to this. ... The Holy Father always speaks about the two lungs of Europe and of the Church: the Eastern and the Western Church. The tradition of the Eastern Church has been, I must personally acknowledge this, of great help in the serious crisis of the Western Church. 

Western Christians need a vital contribution from the theology of the Fathers of the Church, from the monasticism of the Eastern Church, from the solemnity and the beauty of the Divine Liturgy and the icons. How much of the ecclesial renewal is due to the Churches of the East! But also the Eastern Church needs the Western lung to be more incarnate in the visible structures of society and overcome the serious danger represented by the national Church, for whom the referral to Peter, the center of unity, is essential." 

In regard to another intervention of Cardinal Schonborn, Zenit reported:

Recalling the fact that "Vienna is half way between Moscow and Madrid," Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, breathed new hope in the Synod "aula" when he spoke about the magnificent contribution the East has offered, offers and must offer to European Christianity. First and foremost, he made an impressive reference to the martyrs of Communism, which was applauded by the assembly. 

"While the crimes of Nationalsocialism (Nazi) have been discussed and overcome, those of Communism are often still veiled in a 'cloud of unknowing' and in silence. Should we, the Christians and Bishops of the West, perhaps also participate in this silence? Should we not ask for forgiveness for this in the present Synod, so that the memories of the martyrs can be celebrated with a pure heart?"

"Prophetically," he continued, "Wladimir Soloview realized that the Schism of Christianity, between East and West can be overcome only by a new reference to the mystery of Israel: it is the root that supports us, it is not we who sustain it. Our belonging to the one people of God is not given to us by language, or culture, or nationality, but by God's choice and calling who, from our differences, invites us to his 'sacred assembly' in 'the Israel of God.' "

H. Exc. Most Rev. Christo PROYKOV, Titular Bishop of Briula, Apostolic Exarch for the Byzantine-Slav Catholic Rite in Bulgaria: 

The Present situation of the Catholic Church in Bulgaria

Upon the extensive experience of martyrdom of our predecessors, the Church looks with hope towards the future. 

We express our gratitude towards the other Churches of Europe which have contributed to the rebirth of spiritual life.

Bulgaria has remained a point of stability in the Balkan region because it has not been contaminated by the germ of nationalism.

In the Balkans, the Orient and the West, the Orthodox and Catholic Church come together in Bulgaria. Today we realize that the things which unite us are more numerous than those which divide us because the Christian root of our faith is the same--the root which lies at the foundation of the history of Europe. 

In Emmaus, the two apostles returned with new faith and hope. We, too, from the East and West are called to discover what is the hope of the new millennium. 




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