Rorate Caeli

Declaration on the Anaphora of Addai and Mari
Not an act of the Supreme Magisterium

Considering a recent discussion on this blog, a reader sent us these very interesting excerpts of an article included in the book Die Anaphora von Addai und Mari – Studien zu Eucharistie und Einsetzungsworten (The Anaphora of Addai and Mari - Studies on the Eucharist and the Institution Narrative), organized by Father U.M.Lang.

Historical and Theological Argumentation
in Favour Of Anaphoras without Institution Narrative:

A Critical Appraisal

Ansgar Santogrossi OSB,

In 2001 the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity wrote a letter to the Chaldean Catholic bishops expressing its judgment that Chaldean Catholics could, if necessary, receive the Eucharist consecrated by Assyrian Church of the East clergy using the Addai and Mari Anaphora which does not contain the Narrative of the Institution with its words “This is my body, this is my blood”. The Christian Unity Council indicated it had received approval of this judgment from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Pope John Paul II.

The letter has caused some degree of surprise and perplexity among Catholics. In 2004 the Roman journal Divinitas published a collection of articles on the topic, and in 2006 the English-language edition of Nova et Vetera published an article by Peter Kwasniewski defending the validity of Addai and Mari without “This is my body etc.” on the basis of Thomistic sacramental and Eucharistic theology.

The present article will critically evaluate the principal arguments in support of the Christian Unity Council decision, presenting reasons which could motivate a re-examination of the issue by the Holy See. The canonical and magisterial status of the decision will also be examined. The present study is in four parts: I) patristic and historical interpretation of the history of the anaphora, II) the magisterial status of the Pontifical Council’s letter to the Chaldean bishops, III) the rule of faith, IV) St Thomas’s understanding of the Eucharistic consecration and the act of the ordained priest.

For Robert Taft SJ (R. F. Taft, “Messa senza consacrazione? Lo storico accordo sull’Eucaristia tra la Chiesa cattolica e la Chiesa assira d’Oriente promulgato il 26 ottobre 2001”), the Anaphora of Addai and Mari pronounced without Institution Narrative must be accepted as prima facie valid because it is the traditional anaphora of an apostolic Church.


Referring to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity’s letter to the Chaldean bishops as an epoch-making “decree” and the most important magisterial document since Vatican II, Taft presents himself in the role of the Catholic theologian whose fundamental tasks include that of explaining and justifying the authentic decisions of the supreme magisterium.

Without qualification he presents not only the Unity Council but also the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Pope John Paul II as the authorities who have approved the “audacious accord” between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. Taft finds the letter to be audacious and courageous because it breaks with centuries of teaching and clichés fostered by the theological manuals. He also reveals that it was prepared by several years of cross-examination from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and consultation with at least twenty-six experts. During the course of his article, Fr Taft mentions papal judgments of the past which seem to contradict the recent decision, and so he offers suggestions for how to “interpret” them, since, he says, an authentic magisterium cannot contradict itself.

In the case of the decision that the Anaphora of Addai and Mari can be considered valid, Fr Taft presents no distinctions or nuances in his use of the phrase “supreme magisterium”. And yet it is a little unusual, especially in theological circles, for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity to be called “supreme magisterium”. It is the bishop of Rome himself or the universal episcopate in its unanimity which is normally considered to be supreme magisterium, and it is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which has been given the faculty to teach and judge Catholic doctrine as an instrument of the Pope’s magisterium.

The 2001 letter to the Chaldean bishops from the Unity Council, which has never been published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, was an official act of the Unity Council, not of the Pope or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Even though the CDF and the Pope gave their approval to the letter as the culmination of inter-dicasterial consultation, this approval has never been published as an act of magisterium to the universal Church. And whereas “supreme magisterium” is usually associated with acts promulgated to the universal Church, the Unity Council’s letter of 2001 was specifically addressed to a single sui iuris particular Church and not to the universal Church.

Cesare Giraudo (C. Giraudo, “L’anafora degli apostoli Addai e Mari: la ‘gemma orientale’ della Lex orandi”) points out that the clearest papal declarations favouring the words of the Lord as the sole form of the Eucharist are found in letters addressed only to a portion of the Church; although this allows him to qualify their status as minor, he fails to point out that the Unity Council’s 2001 letter was likewise addressed only to a restricted portion of the Church, and is canonically not an act of the Pope himself.

For these reasons it seems difficult to affirm that the 2001 letter is an act of authentic magisterium requiring the assent of all the baptized. And putting aside for a moment the issue of the non-universal scope of the letter’s addressee, the Chaldean Catholic Church, one can ask what part of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus gives the Unity Council authority to make authentic interpretations of Catholic doctrine, for to say that the words of Christ validly consecrate the Eucharist when they are found only in “a dispersed and euchological way” is to give a further interpretation of the Catholic doctrine that the words of Christ at the Last Supper consecrate the Eucharist.

In summary: if in the future the Pope or the CDF were to declare to the universal Church that pronouncing the words “This is my body etc.” is the necessary form of the Eucharist, theologians would be able to point out that the 2001 letter of the Unity Council was not an act of the Pope or the CDF and that is was not promulgated to the universal Church.