Final Communique of the 22nd meeting of Eastern Catholic Bishops of Europe released
The press service of the Council of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe and the Secretariat of the head of the UGCC in Rome published the final communique of the 22nd Meeting of Eastern Catholic Bishops of Europe, which was held on September 12-14 at the Ukrainian Pontifical College of St. Josaphat in Rome.
The document was released on September 17 by the UGCC Information Department.
The meeting, organized by the Council of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe (CCEE) and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and themed "Universal Mission of the Eastern Catholic Churches of Europe Today", was attended by about seventy delegates-representatives of the Eastern Catholic Churches in Europe. The conference was opened by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Council of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe. In his welcoming speech, he expressed the hope that "this meeting will help accelerate the path to the unity of all Christians, which Europe needs so much! May our mutual exchange of views and our reflections be a humble contribution to the prayers of Jesus Christ, that all may be one." His Beatitude Sviatoslav, Head and Father of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, stressed the importance of the Ecumenical mission of the Eastern Catholic Churches and the "need for Eastern Catholics to be catalysts of ecumenism."
Numerous speakers were invited to the conference, among them Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation of Eastern Churches. In his report, Cardinal Sandry stressed: "The Eastern Catholic Churches were born not only as a result of a certain historical situation but exist by God's Providence. This is a confirmation that diversity within the Church is a manifestation of God's plan." Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, recalled in his speech that "the true goal of the Ecumenical movement, that is, the restoration of the visible unity of the Church, full Church communion has not yet been achieved and it will probably take much longer than it seemed". He also spoke of the need to establish a common ecumenical goal in order " not to continue to drift away from each other." The Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, spoke about the relationship between diplomacy and ecumenical activity and how the two dimensions are closely linked, given their style and goals, and outlined their common goal: "to work for the restoration of peace where there is discord, to consider forgiveness the only effective way after centuries of misunderstanding, not forgetting, however, that Christians have no love without truth."
Father Ivan Datsko, President of the Institute for Ecumenical Studies of the Ukrainian Catholic University, highlighted the theme "Work of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church and the current state of the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches". "The Balamand document and the concept of Uniatism" is the theme presented by Fr. Frans Bowen, member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Father Thomas Pott, a monk from the Chevetogne monastery and Advisor to the Pontifical Council for the promotion of Christian unity, highlighted the theme "Proselytism and religious freedom in the context of Catholic-Orthodox relations". Father Markus Graulich, under-Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, prepared a report on "Theology of the Holy Mystery of Eucharist in the historical context of the communion between the Catholic and Eastern non-Catholic Churches." The last topic discussed during the meeting was "Havana Declaration and prospects for its pastoral implementation in Europe". The author of the report was Fr. Hyacinth Destivelle, an employee of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
The conference ended on Saturday, September 14, with an audience with Pope Francis. Pope Francis inspired the meeting participants to "keep moving forward in a spirit of communion." "Truth is not only harmful to Church unity but on the contrary, it reveals unity (Orientalium Ecclesiorum, 2). Christian unity is not homogeneity. Homogeneity is the destruction of unity; Christian truth is not monotonous, but symphonic, otherwise it would not come from the Holy Spirit," stressed the Holy Father and added: "Catholic unity is part of your special identity and does not take anything away from it, on the contrary – it contributes to its full realization."
The Eastern Churches, the Pope recalled, are the bearers of a special mission on the path of Ecumenical Dialogue. "Today, when too many irregularities and divisions constitute a threat to peace, we are called to be workers of dialogue, promoters of reconciliation, patient builders of civilization, a meeting that saves our times from the anticivilization of confrontation. While many others draw from the spiral of violence, grievances, and constant recriminations, the Lord wants us to be meek sowers of the Gospel of love. In a Christian family, be those who look to the Lord the Comforter, work to heal the wounds of the past, overcome prejudices and divisions, and inspire hope for all as they walk along with our non-Catholic brothers and sisters."
Two days of reflections on the ecumenical mission of the Eastern Catholic Churches were summed up by the meeting participants as the following theses:
The Eastern Catholic Churches make their theological contribution to the tradition of the Catholic Church itself, helping it to better express its universal dimension.
The Catholicism of the Church cannot be limited to its Latin tradition.
In the Ecumenical Dialogue with the Orthodox churches, the Eastern Catholic Churches offer new elements in understanding the Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Synodality.
The meeting participants also expressed the wish to establish a working group to study the joint Ecumenical concept of the Eastern Catholic Churches of Europe and to offer education of the joint theological Commission between the Orthodox churches and Eastern Catholic Churches to give a new impetus to Ecumenical Dialogue.