Rorate Caeli

"Spiritual reconciliation" and "Structural merger"

The "Compendium" of the Pope's 2007 Letter to China was released by the Holy See yesterday (PDF file). The very important matter of the structure of the Catholic Church in China, filled with important lessons for other areas of the universal Church, is once again discussed, with notes, particularly notes 2 and 6:

2. We can see that the Holy Father is talking about a spiritual reconciliation, which can and must take place now, even before a structural merger of official and unofficial Catholic communities takes place. As a matter of fact, the Holy Father seems to make a distinction between “a spiritual reconciliation” and “a structural merger”. He recognizes that the reconciliation is like a journey that “cannot be accomplished overnight” (6.6): however, he emphasizes that the steps to be taken on the way are necessary and urgent, and cannot therefore be postponed because - or on the pretext that - they are difficult since they require the overcoming of personal positions or views. Times and ways may vary according to local situations, but the commitment to reconciliation cannot be abandoned. This path of reconciliation, furthermore, cannot be limited to the spiritual realm of prayer alone but must also be expressed through practical steps of effective ecclesial communion (exchange of experiences, sharing of pastoral projects, common initiatives, etc.). Finally, it should not be forgotten that all without exception are invited to engage in these steps: Bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful. It is by means of practical steps that spiritual reconciliation, including visible reconciliation, will gradually occur, which will culminate one day in the complete structural unity of every diocesan community around its one Bishop and of every diocesan community with each other and with the universal Church. In this context, it is licit and fitting to encourage clergy and lay faithful to make gestures of forgiveness and reconciliation in this direction.
6. With regard to participation in the Mass and in the other sacraments in an officially registered church, the Holy Father distinguishes two cases. If the Bishop or the priest celebrant is in communion with the Pope, the faithful “should not hesitate” to receive the sacraments from him. If, on the contrary, the Bishop or priest celebrant is not in communion with the Pope, the faithful “may” receive communion and the other sacraments from him on two conditions: when they do not succeed in finding legitimate Pastors “without grave inconvenience to themselves”, and yet they feel the need of the sacraments for their own spiritual good. In the second case, the final decision will be taken by the individual Catholic, taking into serious consideration the possibility indicated by the Holy Father.

Let us not forget that today, Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, was the day established by the Holy Father for the whole Church to pray for the Church in China.