|The churches in union with Rome in the territories of the former Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe are "in no way intended to bring the Catholic Church into competition with the Russian Orthodox Church or with other Christian churches," says a document issued by the Pontifical Commission for Russia. Titled "General Principles and Practical Norms for Coordinating the Evangelizing Activity and Ecumenical Commitment of the Catholic Church in Russia and in the Other Countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States," the text discusses proselytism, the use of church buildings, dialogue and other aspects of ecumenism in a region where conflicts over the ownership of church buildings and charges of Catholic Church proselytism have been heard since the Soviet Unions breakup led to the legalization of the churches in union with Rome. "So-called proselytism, meaning the exercise of any sort of pressure on peoples consciences,
is completely different from the apostolate and it is certainly not the method used by the pastors of the Catholic Church," the norms and principles state. "The way to achieve Christian unity is certainly not proselytism but rather fraternal dialogue between the followers of Christ," the text says. But, it adds, it cannot be considered proselytism when "entire communities
which during the years of suppression and persecution
were forced, in order to survive, to declare themselves Orthodox, have now
manifested" their unity with Rome. The texts practical directives urge the promotion of "a good understanding with the local authorities of the Orthodox Church," including respect for the difficulties that the Orthodox Church itself has faced and a willingness to make authorities of that church aware of all important pastoral initiatives.|
The Vaticans English text of the principles and norms follows, dated June 1, 1992.
The church has recieved from Christ the mission of bringing the Gospel of salvation to all peoples; as a messianic people, she has been "established by Christ as a communion of life, love and truth; by him too she has been taken up as the instrument of salvation for all and sent forth to the whole world as the light of the world and the salt of the earth (cf. Mt. 5,13-16)" (Lumen Gentium,9). As the sacrament of the communion between God and men, the church is a sign and leaven of the unity of humanity. She invites everyone to benefit from the abundance of Gods gifts, which derive from Christs redemptive sacrifice and from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, who renews the face of the earth. In carrying out the mission entrusted to her by Christ, the Catholic Church encounters other communities which also have their point of reference in Christ, and in particular the Orthodox churches with whom she shares a great part of the ecclesial heritage.
Those to whom the Gospel message is addressed in one and the same area do not all receive it in the same way: There are faithful who are members of the Catholic Church, brothers and sisters from other Christian denominations and traditions, and there are also those who although they have received that message have not made it their own but have become non-believers or atheists. The concern of the Catholic Church is directed toward all, in accordance with their individual circumstances.
The directives issued in this document concern the particular situations of the territories of the former Soviet Union and of Eastern Europe, and take into consideration the centuries-old presence of the Orthodox Church and the painful history of those peoples under the communist regime. State norms concerning religious freedom now allow the churches to carry out their mission with a renewed sense of responsibility, not only toward those who had suffered persecution but also toward those who are seeking the truth and means of salvation. It is not in competition, but in a shared esteem for the unity willed by Christ that the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church are called upon to carry out their mission and to do so in such a way that their witness, both in each ones own activities and in joint undertakings, will respond fully to the will of Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life, respecting the conscience of every individual as well as the free distribution of the charisms of the Holy Spirit.
I. General Principles
- After 70 years of official atheism in the territories of the former Soviet Union, the Catholic communities of the Latin, Byzantine and Armenian rites are in particular need of a new evangelization.
This need has prompted a careful reorganization of the local hierarchy, with the appointment of bishops or apostolic administrators for the Latin communities of Belorus, Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, the recognition and "missio canonica" of bishops of the Ukrainian Byzantine Rite Catholic Church who had been clandestinely ordained, and the erection of the ordinariate for Armenian Catholics.
- The bishops and apostolic administrators thus have the right and the duty to provide for the spiritual needs of the Catholic entrusted to their pastoral care. They must concern themselves with ensuring the presence of a priest in the various communities so that even the numerically smaller ones can at least occasionally have the assistance of a priest for the celebration of the eucharist and other sacraments, and can receive the religious instruction they need.
Indeed, St. Pauls remark in his letter to the Romans remains as valid as ever: "But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?
Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ" (Rom 10,14-17).
|"Bishops and priests will take care to consider attentively the motives of those who ask to enter the Catholic Church. Such people must also be made aware of their obligations toward their own community of origin."|
In order to carry out this work of evangelization, until such time as there is an adequately trained local clergy, the bishops and apostolic administrators should try to obtain necessary cooperation from episcopal conferences and religious orders in other countries. They should also pay due attention to the linguistic needs of their communities, so as to respect the rights, including the religious rights, of the ethnic minorities present in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
With regard to the Oriental rite communities, consideration can be given to the possibility of calling upon the assistance of biritual priests whenever the priests of the local rite are not sufficient. Such priests should be well instructed not only in the liturgy but also in the traditions and sensibilities of the church they are sent to serve.
- The apostolic structures which the bishops and apostolic administrators organize in the territories entrusted to them are meant to respond to the needs of the Catholic communities present in these territories. They are in no way intended to bring the Catholic Church into competition with the Russian Orthodox Church or with other Christian churches present in the same territory. So-called proselytism, meaning the exercise of any sort of pressure on peoples consciences, whatever form it may take and by whomever it may be practiced, is completely different from the apostolate, and it is certainly not the method used by the pastors of the Catholic Church. In this regard, the Second Vatican Council solemnly teaches that "the church severely forbids forcing anyone to embrace the faith, or to persuade or attract him by unbecoming pressures" (Decree Ad Gentes, 13).
- Apostolic activity in the territories of the Commonwealth of Independent States and Eastern Europe requires of Catholics both fidelity to their own mission and a true concern for their Orthodox brothers and sisters, with respect for the latters faith, so that they can join with them in preparing for the ecclesial unity willed by Christ. In short, it is a question of bringing about that unity in the truth for which Christ prayed (cf. apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 54). This preparation for the unity which is so greatly desired will be carried out by developing fraternal trust between the bishops, priests and faithful of the two churches.
- In full respect for religious freedom, which is an inalienable right of every person, bishops and priests will take care to consider attentively the motives of those who ask to enter the Catholic Church. Such people must also be made aware of their obligations toward their own community of origin.
The Declaration on Religious Liberty issued by the Second Vatican Council represents for the Catholic Church a fundamental document in this regard. Whenever the opportunity arises, it will be good to recall these principles and to invite everyone to respect the religious choice of each believer.
- Every Catholic is well aware that "the church is of its very nature missionary" (Ad Gentes,2). But every Catholic is likewise aware that the commitment to promote Christian unity is part of that mission of proclaiming to the world the good news of salvation in Christ, in the unity of one body, one baptism and one faith.
For this reason, the apostolic activity of the Catholic Church in the territories of the Commonwealth of Independent States must now more than ever have an ecumenical dimension. It must in every way promote dialogue between Christians in the light of the principles affirmed by the Second Vatican Council and the related post-conciliar documents, and it must constitute for the institutions of the Catholic Church a pastoral priority in the territories of the Commonwealth of Independent States. In fact, the way to achieve Christian unity is certainly not proselytism but rather fraternal dialogue between the followers of Christ - a dialogue fostered by prayer and developed in charity, with the aim of re-establishing that full communion between the Byzantine Church and the Church of Rome which existed in the first millenium. This dialogue must take place as much on the local level as on the regional and universal levels, and its purpose is to promote mutual trust in such a way that all Christians of different denominations can cooperate in certain apostolic, social and cultural undertakings, in order that "the word of the Lord may run on and triumph" (2 Thes 3,1).
By acknowledging each other as members of churches which preserve a great part of the common heritage - sacramental, liturgical, spiritual and theological - Catholics and Orthodox can bear common witness to Christ before a world which yearns for its own unity. The common heritage is such as to favor common activity, with respect for the traditions proper to each.
|"The activity of the Catholic Church in the territories of the Commonwealth of Independent States
needs to be conducted in ways which differ substantially from those of the mission ad gentes."|
- It ist of course true that the activity of the Catholic Church in the territories of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which are so deeply imbued with the presence and the activity of the Orthodox and Armenian traditions, needs to be conducted in ways which differ substantially from those of the mission "ad gentes".
In particular, Latin Catholics must not forget the special circumstances of the birth and growth of the churches of the East, the liturgical and spiritual tradition of the Orientals, and their great love for the mother of God. As the Holy Father said in his message Magnum Baptismi Donum of Feb. 14, 1988, to Ukrainian Catholics on the occasion of the millennium of the baptism of Kievan Rus, "the (Second Vatican) Council emphasized the great values of the liturgical, spiritual, disciplinary and theological traditions found in these churches, as well as their right and duty to live these traditions, which pertain to the full catholicity and apostolicity of the church" (No. 6; A.A.S 80 (1988), pp. 993-994).
The Latin Rite Chatholic Church in those lands must therefore hold in great esteem the Eastern traditions which are deeply rooted in them, and particularly those of the Orthodox Church. Having herself emerged from a long period of persecution, difficulties and conditionings of every kind, the Orthodox Church is now faced with the challenge of a new evangelization of traditionally Orthodox peoples who have been brought up in atheism.
Therefore, in fraternal dialogue with the local bishops of the Orthodox Church and with full respect for the citizens religious confession, the pastors of the Latin Church should try to promote cooperation with the Orthodox Church in all areas where this is possible, so that everyone may become clearly aware of the unity in charity which must reign between the two churches, as a prelude to full ecclesial communion.
The Oriental churches in communion with the Apostolic See of Rome, particularly the Catholic Church of the Ukrainian Byzantine Rite, are reminded by the Second Vatican Council that they have "the special responsibility of furthering the unity of all Christians, especially Eastern Christians, according to the principles of this synods Decree on Ecumenism, firstly with prayers, then by the examples of their life, religious fidelity toward ancient Eastern traditions, better mutual understanding, working together and a sensitive appreciation of realities and feelings" (Decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 24).
- Unfortunately, the process of reorganizing the Catholic Church in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States has been accompanied by tensions with the Orthodox Church.
This has occurred in Ukraine, particularly in the matter of the assignment of places of worship, following the recognition of freedom of conscience by the civil authorities of the former U.S.S.R. and the consequent recognition of the Byzantine Rite Catholic Church, which had been suppressed in 1946.
One certainly cannot consider as proselytism the fact that entire communities, headed by their priests, which during the years of suppression and persecution of the "Greek-Catholic" Church were forced, in order to survive, to declare themselves Orthodox, have now, having regained their freedom, manifested their membership of the "Greek-Catholic" Church. It is a matter of a free initiative on the part of people who before 1946 had openly professed their Catholic faith.
Nevertheless, the disputes over places of worship have been a painful incident along the path of ecumenism.
The Holy See, in agreement with the Moscow Patriarchate, had tried to prevent this, and in January 1990 had laid down guidelines which should have ensured a peaceful distribution of places of worship. Unfortunately, this step was not successful, due to local conditions inherited from the recent past. But responsibility for the failure of the work undertaken by the "Quadripartite Commission" cannot be imputed to one of the parties alone.
Today there still remain situations of uneasiness and tension, and the exhortation addressed by the Holy Father on May 31, 1991, to the bishops of Europe remains valid: "All must be convinced that also in cases such as these disputes over relatively contingent and practical matters, dialogue still remains the best instrument for embarking upon a fraternal exchange which aims at settling the issue in a spirit of justice, charity and forgiveness" (Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to the Bishops of Europe on Relations Between Catholics and Orthodox in the New Situation of Central and Eastern Europe, 2).
|"Having herself emerged from a long period of persecution, difficulties and conditionings of every kind, the Orthodox Church is now faced with the challenge of a new evangelization of traditionally Orthodox peoples who have been brought up in atheism."|
II. Practical Directives
In light of the principles stated above, and with a view to dispelling the apprehensions which have arisen in the Orthodox Church and to re-establishing the mutual trust essential for an authentic ecumenical dialogue between the two churches on the local and international levels, the following practical directives are issued:
- The bishops and apostolic administrators in the territories of their competence should make efforts to promote the sound ecumenical training of all pastoral agents (priests, men and women religious, and laity), so that everyone will develop an "ecumenical mentality" in conformity with the principles enunciated by the Second Vatican Council and in conformity with the directives of the Holy See, with due regard for their own experiences (cf. CCEO Canon 904).
They should also promote in every way a good understanding with the local authorities of the Orthodox Church, appreciating the difficulties which the latter is experiencing, in order to help create a climate of trust and peaceful cooperation. Even if reasons for opposition existed in the past, they should remind the faithful that only conversion of heart, with sincere forgiveness of those who have offended them, enable them to call themselves real followers of Christ.
In cases where such understanding might prove difficult, the bishops and apostolic administrators should make a point of informing the papal representative and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and, in cases falling within their competence, the other offices of the Roman Curia. In fact, the cooperation of these higher authorities can offer considerable help in resolving particular cases, which can be discussed with the Moscow Patriarchate or with the central authorities of other churches.
- The bishops and apostolic administrators, who are responsible for and guarantee all pastoral initiatives aimed at promoting the religious life of the Catholic communities, must take care to ensure that no activity undertaken within their ecclestical circumscriptions can be easily misconstrued as a "parallel structure of evangelization." In this regard, Canon 905 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches prescribes that both false ecumenism and "immoderate zeal" are to be avoided.
In conformity with the provisions of church law (CIC Canon 394,1; CCEO Canon 203), priests, religious and members of lay movements who wish to exercise an apostolate in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States must act in close cooperation with and in dependence upon the local ordinaries, refraining from any undertaking that has not been previously approved by the same ordinaries and scrupulously respecting the directives which, obviously, within the limits of their own jurisdiction, the ordinaries have issued.
Should situation of grave difficulty occur, the bishops and apostolic administrators are to inform the papal representative and the Apostolic See without delay.
- Also for the sake of promotion a harmonious coexistence with the Orthodox Church and in order to give proof of the openness which should exist in all the pastoral initiatives of the Catholic Church, the bishops and apostolic administrators are to inform the ordinaries of the Orthodox Church of all important pastoral initiatives, particularly those regarding the erection of new parishes intended to meet the needs of the local Catholic communities.
The Holy See is certain that the Orthodox bishops, who share the same concern for evangelization with regard to their own faithful, will be happy to promote the spiritual assistance of the Catholic communities existing in the territories of their dioceses, also by restoring churches to the Oriental or Latin Catholic communities where the latter are still deprived of them.
However, should there be as a result of particular circumstances conflicting opinions regarding the appropriateness of a pastoral initiative which a bishop or apostolic administrator considers necessary for the spiritual good of a group of the Catholic faithful, even a small one, the bishop or apostolic administrator, having exhausted the means of dialogue mentioned above, may act in accordance with his conscience, inasmuch as he is the one responsible before God for the spiritual life of each and every individual member of the Catholic Church. For more serious questions, he will take care to consult the papal representative and the competent departments of the Roman Curia.
- Should circumstances permit, the pastors of the Catholic Church, out of missionary zeal and concern for the evangelization of millions of people who do not yet know Christ, should endeavor to cooperate with the Orthodox bishops in developing pastoral initiatives of the Orthodox Church. They should be pleased if by their contribution they can help to train good Christians.
- It is appropriate to bring to the attention of the authorities of the Orthodox Church the initiatives of a social character (educational, charitable, etc.) which institutions of the Catholic Church in Western countries may be invited to undertake as a contribution to the common good of the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States or of Eastern Europe.
When it is the state or a civic body that requests the cooperation of religious orders and of other agencies juridically dependent on the Catholic hierarchy, charity demands that the competent authorities of the Orthodox communities should be informed of this, even if it can be presumed that these same civic bodies have done so on their own.
|"It will sometimes be advisable to provide for the common use of the same place of worship after an agreement has been reached between the Catholic and Orthodox communities or other Christian denominations."|
- Should priests or bishops from other nations be invited by state agencies (cultural, scientific, etc.) to attend certain particular events, courtesy dictates that this should be brought to the attention of the Orthodox or Armenian Patriarchate. Similarly, when a senior Orthodox figure is invited to take part in an event promoted by the Catholic Church in the territories of the Commonwealth of Independent States, it will be appropriate to give prior notice to the patriarchate.
- The bishops and apostolic administrators should take care to ensure the celebration of the sacraments in the languages spoken by the ethnic minorities present in the different countries. This does not necessarily mean that liturgical assemblies will be turned into factors of division or instruments of militant nationalism. At the same time, the bishops and apostolic administrators are to promote the integration of minorities present either permanently or temporarily into the dominant social context of the countries accepting them, without this involving the loss of their own identity. For all Catholics, in fact, diversity offers an opportunity to share the treasures of others.
- The places of worship necessary for the liturgical and ecclesial life of the Christian communities must respond to the latters needs, which arise from the personal right to exercise - individually or in groups - the religious acts of ones own faith. These needs depend on local conditions: the importance of the community, material possibilities, pastoral care. Priority for the distribution of already existing places of worship depends on the proportion - numerical as well as social and historical - of the faithful living in a particular place. If it is a matter of erecting a new building, care must be taken to determine whether such a building is needed before requesting the necessary agreement of the diocesan bishop (CIC Canon 1215,1; CCEO Canon 370). It will sometimes be advisable to provide for the common use of the same place of worship after an agreement has been reached between the Catholic and Orthodox communities or other Christian denominations; this agreement is to be submitted to the approval of the respective hierarchical authorities.
The preaching of the Gospel to all creation cannot ignore the great commandment of love, for Jesus says: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn. 13,35): The means, ways and methods put forward here for the Catholic communities are meant to help them to respond with complete openness to this vocation and grace: to be witnesses to the unity willed by Christ.
All are called upon to renew the spirit of communion promoted by the Second Vatican Council, so that the fraternal relations which should exist between Christs disciples can lead to full communion of faith an charity. In this way there will be banished "all feeling of rivalry or strife" (Decree Unitatis Redintegratio, 18), and once the wall dividing the Western from the Eastern church is removed there will finally be a single dwelling place, solidly established upon the cornerstone, Christ Jesus, who will make them both one.
June 1, 1992.
from: "ORIGINS", October 8, 1992