Help church in diaspora preserve traditions, says Cardinal Sandri

24.11.2014, 18:11

While fully part of the universal Catholic Church, the Eastern Catholic churches suffered from the prejudices of the Latin-rite majority and an emphasis on uniformity among all Catholics, said the head of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council decree "Orientalium Ecclesiarum," which affirmed the richness of the Eastern churches within the Catholic communion, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri said, "Diversity at the center of the church is something that reflects a project of God."

In his Nov. 20 message for the anniversary, the cardinal described "Orientalium Ecclesiarum" as the "crowning of an important journey in the Latin conscience" toward acceptance of the Eastern churches.

The Eastern churches historically faced "several prejudices" in the Catholic communion, namely an ecclesiology of "universal uniformity," which, he said, "considered the Latin church and its 'rite' as the universal model."

In addition, he said, because of a particular interpretation of the role of the Roman pontiff, "the rights and privileges of the patriarchs were worn thin or dropped."

"At the base, there was perhaps a consideration of Eastern Catholic Christianity as quaint folklore, sometimes not deeply understood and confused with the Orthodox Church," he wrote.

However, the Second Vatican Council offered a new understanding of the Eastern churches and affirmed "the necessary diversity within the universal church," he said. It expressed "great esteem for their ways of governance, their canonical disciplines as regards priests -- including the married priesthood -- their piety, their ways of understanding the Christian mystery and their vision of the church," he wrote.

The Eastern churches were not, as previously understood, "caused by some historical contingency, but they exist by providential design," said Cardinal Sandri.

"Diversity is an indicator of communion and almost the condition for its possibility, not its negation," he wrote. "It is diversity, owed to the Spirit, and expressed according to the cultural horizon of each people who has welcomed the Gospel."

Praising the "witness of courage and hope" of the martyred Eastern Catholic churches, the cardinal also noted the significant challenges faced by many Eastern churches today as they minister in territories affected by war, political upheavals and humanitarian disasters.

Faced by these challenges, many Eastern Catholics have immigrated to countries where the Latin church is predominant, he said. In light of this migration, he said, the more numerous Catholic communities are called "to help Eastern Catholic churches in the diaspora preserve, love and transpose ... their religious traditions in new cultural contexts."

Laura Ieraci

21 November 2014 Catholic News Service