Sunday, June 29, 2008

Breathing with two lungs

John Paul II once described the Church as breathing with two lungs, through the Eastern Rite and Western Churches. For too long have East and West lungs not breathed together. Certainly the Eastern Rite Churches contribute greatly to the function of the body of the Church, but still a great number of our Orthodox breatheren are separated from us, by ancient divisions in theological points.
Today two hopeful occurrences have happened to make it more hopeful that in the future East and West may breath together more powerfully, something which, considering the state of the world, can only be for the good.
The first is discussion by the Ukrainian Catholic Church with the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople for a system of "dual-unity" by which they would be both in union with Rome and with the Orthodox Churches. This would be a big deal, effectively turning back the clock one thousand years. This is a good thing.
The next is the Mass for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul at which Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Churches joined the Holy Father. The Holy Father and the Patriarch together recited the creed, in Greek (without the troublesome Filioque clause), Bartholomew and Benedict gave the blessing with the Book of the Gospel, after which the Gospel was sang by an Orthodox deacon. Both the Holy Father and the Patriarch gave addresses at the homily.
This is too a big thing.
The Orthodox bishops are real bishops, with apostalic succession going back the the apostles. As is says in the Guidelines for the reception of Communion:
"Members of the Orthodox Churches...are urged to respect the discipile of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic Discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object the the reception of Communion by Chrisitians of these Churches."
It is also permissible for a Roman Catholic to receive Communion in an Orthodox Church, at least according to the Code of Canon Law, provided a valid Catholic (Roman or Eastern Rite) Mass is not available. In both case the disciplines of the Orthodox Church may not permit this.
There have certainly been cases of even Orthodox bishops recieving Communion in a Roman Catholic Mass, though it is hardly routine. Perhaps someday it will become so. Considering the very close theological beliefs of East and West it can only be for the good.

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