SOURCE: CONSILIUM CONFERENTIARUM EPISCOPORUM EUROPAE CCEE
14th meeting of the Bishops of the Eastern Catholic Bishops - Oradea, Romania, 3-6 November 2011.
The Eastern Catholic Churches of Europe share a common history, made of marginalization, suffering and martyrdom, especially under the totalitarian regimes during which they were legally banned and suppressed. "There is no other Church in Romania that might be called "Church of martyrdom, except the Greek-catholic Church," said Mgr. Francisco Javier Lozano, Apostolic Nuncio in Romania and the Republic of Moldova.
This function of having preserved the faith at the cost of one’s life, was then widely remembered by the various political authorities of the region and the city, who have highlighted the role of the Greek-catholic Church in Romania, in particular the role of the Exarchate of Oradea, in the “reconstruction of the social and moral fabric of the population, in being a point of reference and a sign of hope and understanding for many. During the meeting, the participants had the opportunity to visit some of the places that bear witness to the love of those two local Catholic churches.
The New Evangelization and the Eastern Catholic Churches
On the issue of new evangelization, two orders of reflections have been the focus of our work. On the one hand, the fact that the Eastern Catholic Churches in Europe have a specific and unique contribution to make to the current debate in the Catholic Church and to the whole process, already underway, of the new evangelization. On the other hand, we have seen that they must also be aware of the challenges that the modern world brings to our mission. The crisis the world is living today is essentially anthropological in its nature, partly as a result of secularism, which led to the unjustified exclusion of God, both in the public and in the private sphere, thereby leading to a serious confusion in terms of personal identity, so that modern man often becomes unable to justify himself and find an orientation to his existence. In addition, the Eastern Catholic Churches feel confronted with these problems and, after having demonstrated the vitality of a newfound freedom, about two decades ago, now they feel challenged by these global phenomena, especially as they affect many of their faithful migrants, thus placing their respective Churches in front of new pastoral problems that require original and appropriate solutions.
In his address, Mgr. Salvatore Fischella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, has highlighted some of the tasks facing the new evangelization: strengthening the sense of belonging which generates a strong identity; having attention to our terminology and have a special care for “what is beautiful”, for the liturgy, but also for catechesis and permanent formation. Finally, in the face of different forms of selfishness that now seem to have the upper hand, the new evangelization should encourage witnesses of solidarity and generosity, i.e. charity, through which we can express God´s love for all.
Jesuit Fr. Marko Rupnik, a world-famous artist and Director of the Aletti Center, presented the contribution of Byzantine art in the context of the new evangelization. For this Slovenian artist, it is very important to understand the reality in which the art inserts and the function it has assumed. Unfortunately, "The art has migrated from the shrine to the palace ending up in the art galleries; it does not generate devotion but only admiration of the artist. At the same time, the art has lost its function as a symbol, putting forward the idea of concept but totally disconnected from the reality of daily life." According to the Jesuit, also the art should be able to transmit the faith, life and love. In short, what happened to the art reflects what happened to the Christian faithful, who do not know how to live their baptism in everyday life, how to live their being regenerated as sons and daughters of God, how to show a humanity inhabited by God, in short, how to show what it means to be redeemed.
Prof. Cesare Alzati, a professor at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan, in the light of the history and nature of the Eastern Catholic Churches, has identified some aspects that could be a stimulus to the rest of the Christian world. First, going beyond one’s confessional frontiers, not losing one’s identity, but open a dialogue with the other denominations that share the same challenges of secularization, i.e. the separation between the supernatural and present life.
A particularly important aspect is the liturgy of the Eastern Catholic Churches. In this sense, the new evangelization of Europe "has as its inevitable stage the reaffirmation of the centrality of the experience of mystery, through which man can live in history his encounter with God." In this way, even witness has a sort of "cultic teaching" as its point of departure, which gives rise to "a specific anthropology, constitutionally religious and rooted in the mystery of Christ." It has its origin in the living experience of worship and brings with it a specific way of being Christian in history: being witnesses of the mystery.
Another challenge is the "practical atheism" which is spreading out. Those to whom the Church is called to bring the Good News are people who are basically ignorant from a religious point of view, and lack of solid points of cultural reference. The question then is: how to arouse their interest in things that exceed their limited material and utilitarian horizon? Like other speakers, also the Secretary of the Congregation of Eastern Churches has stressed the human research of joy, beauty, decorum and solemnity. For this very reason, "the deep and mystical beauty of our liturgical celebrations can be a boost to the profound search for truth."
At the conclusion of the meeting, Fr. Alexandru Buzalic, Professor of Theology at the University of Cluj-Napoca, focused on the presence of lay realities in the Eastern Catholic Churches. This presence is not new, but in the dark years of communism, these realities have suffered the same fate of their pastors. Today, however, along with the revival of old associations as ASTRU (the local Catholic Action), other associations have been created. All of them want to be actively involved in the field of pastoral care, and integrate the work carried out by the clergy in various areas, particularly in the teaching of religion and in the area of diaconate.
The works were carried out in an atmosphere of cordiality and friendship, and have been enriched by some moments of prayer and the daily celebration of the Eucharist together with the local community, including the faithful of Greek-catholic rite and those of Latin rite. The liturgical celebrations, always very well cared for and intensely participated, have shown that the words exchanged in the meeting were also an expression of a lived experience. Particularly appreciated was the presence and contribution of the bishops of Latin rite of the Romanian Bishops´ Conference, and the hospitality of the Latin rite Bishop of Oradea, Mgr. Laszlo Bocskei.
The 2012 meeting will be held in Zagreb from the 8th to the 11th of November, to mark the fourth centenary of the union of the Croatian Catholic Church of byzantine rite with the Church of Rome, at the invitation of Mgr. Nikola Kekić, Bishop of Križevci.
To the Council of the Bishops´ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) belong, as members, the current 33 European Bishops’ Conferences of this Continent, represented by right by their Presidents, and the Archbishops of Luxembourg, of the Principality of Monaco, the Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus and the Bishop of Chişinău (Moldova Rep.) and the Eparchial Bishop of Mukachevo. The President is Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Primate of Hungary; the Vice-Presidents are Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa, and Mgr Józef Michalik, Archbishop of Przemyśl. The General Secretary is Mgr. Duarte da Cunha. The Secretariat is based at St Gallen (Switzerland).
More photos: http://www.egco.ro/index_ro.php