ASIA / HOLY LAND – The Catholic Churches of the Holy Land confirm their “Eucharistic hospitality” to the baptized of the Eastern non-Catholic Churches


ASIA / HOLY LAND – The Catholic Churches of the Holy Land confirm their “Eucharistic hospitality” to the baptized of the Eastern non-Catholic Churches

Jerusalem (Agenzia Fides) – A priest belonging to one of the Catholic communities present in the Holy Land can administer the sacraments of Penance, the Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick even to Christians belonging to the Orthodox and Eastern non-Catholic Churches , if they request it spontaneously, on their own initiative, “and are adequately prepared”. This is the most exemplary provision contained in the text of the “Ecumenical pastoral directives” for the Catholic Churches, just published in Arabic by the Assembly of Ordinary Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land.
The document provides guidelines as well as binding provisions on issues crucial to the spiritual life of Christians belonging to the many ecclesial communities present in the region. The pastoral directives aim to “enlighten, stimulate and guide the ecumenical relations of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land” by applying the teaching and orientations followed in sacramental matters by the Catholic Church to the current local ecclesial context.
The directives apply to all Catholic Churches in the Holy Land (Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus), concern the Latin, Maronite, Melkite, Chaldean, Sire, Armenian and Coptic Catholic communities, and relate in particular to participation in life. sacramental, crucial question and of great interest for the ordinary life and the common witness of the baptized in the lands where Jesus Christ was born, lived, died and rose from the dead. Other issues – such as ecumenical formation in schools and the promotion of shared charitable initiatives between Catholic and non-Catholic ecclesial communities – will be addressed in future declarations of the Assembly of Ordinary Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land.
In the first part of the guidelines, the particular meaning taken by the “ecumenical question” in the context of the Holy Land, where multiple rites and ecclesial traditions have always coexisted, is outlined in summary. This diversity, over the course of history, instead of being recognized and welcomed as an asset, has often been reduced to a simple instrument of identity differentiation in the divisions of doctrinal, jurisdictional and power oppositions that have torn the communion between Christians.
The policy document published by the Catholic bishops of the Holy Land acknowledges that the situation is now “completely different”. The ecumenical journey strongly promoted after the Second Vatican Council, gestures such as the pilgrimage of Pope Paul VI to the Holy Land in 1964 and also the difficult political and social conditions experienced in the Holy Land during the last decades, have helped to bring the Churches together. . , who have also assumed the recent commitment of restorations in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.
The Christians of the Holy Land, although belonging to different communities – underlines the document with precious and eloquent annotations – live “side by side”, and recognize the common vocation to confess faith in Christ together in the current context of Holy Land, marked by conflict, suffering and opposing fundamentals. Mixed marriages, between Christian spouses belonging to different faiths, are now a constant in the family life of all the baptized in the region, who “sometimes even go so far as to say that they are in full communion, and that the division is only a matter of the clergy.
Daily coexistence leads the baptized not to give too much importance to the confessional boundaries between one ecclesial community and another, also with regard to liturgical life and sacramental practice. The baptized “spontaneously identify themselves as Christians, while priests tend to define themselves according to confessional norms”. This spontaneous process has been confronted in recent years and “in certain places” with a certain “tendency to reaffirm the sectarian identity”, sometimes also marked by an attitude of withdrawal and hostility towards other Christian communities. The provisions of the Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land explicitly recall as sources of inspiration the essential statements of Catholic doctrine in ecumenical matters, with reference to the documents of the Second Vatican Council and to the Pastoral Plan published by the Diocesan Synod of Catholic Churches on Earth Holy in 2000.
All baptized Catholics are called to respect these masterly texts “faithfully”. With regard to sacramental and liturgical life, it is recalled that we must keep in mind the different degrees of “imperfect communion” that Catholics share with Christians of other Churches and ecclesial communities.
In the third section, criteria and guidelines are defined in detail which should guide Catholics – clergy and laity – in sharing the sacramental life with the baptized of other Christian denominations.
First of all, the guidance document encourages believers “to practice their faith and their sacramental life in their own churches”, and to avoid any attitude of careless indifference to ecclesial discipline regarding liturgical celebrations and the administration of the Church. sacraments. It reaffirms that “every Christian has the right, for reasons of religious conscience, to freely decide on his own ecclesiastical affiliation”. And the “permanent and clear distinction between participation in non-sacramental liturgical worship and the life of the sacraments, in particular of the Eucharist, is reaffirmed”.
Next, the document provides guidelines for sharing sacramental life with children of Eastern Churches or Eastern Orthodox Churches. It is explicitly recalled that Catholic priests are authorized to administer the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and the anointing of the sick to the faithful of the Eastern Churches, if they so request and are adequately prepared. At the same time, it is clarified that Orthodox Christians and the ancient non-Catholic Eastern Churches are required to respect the discipline and customs with which the sacraments are administered in the Catholic Church. It is specified that a baptized person belonging to the Orthodox and Eastern non-Catholic Churches can exercise the role of godfather or godmother, jointly with a godfather or a Catholic godmother, in the baptism of a Catholic. Likewise, a Christian belonging to an Eastern Church can attend a wedding in a Catholic Church.
In continuity with the orientations already defined by the great discipline of the Catholic Church, it is also repeated that, in situations of danger of death, “Catholic priests can administer the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and the anointing of sick to members of other Churches or ecclesial groups “, when they cannot have recourse to priests or ministers of worship belonging to their own ecclesial community, provided that those who request such sacraments do so on their own initiative and in complete freedom, expressing their faith in the sacrament they will receive. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 04/11/2021)

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