Rorate Caeli

The Pope to the Eastern Churches

The Church was established to be a sign and an instrument of the unique and universal saving project of God among men; She fulfils this mission simply by being herself, that is, "Communion and witness", as it says in the theme of this Synodal Assembly which opens today, referring to Luke's famous definition of the first Christian community: "The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul" (Acts 4:32). Without communion there can be no witness: the life of communion is truly the great witness. Jesus said it clearly: "It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples" (Jn 13:35). This communion is the same life of God which is communicated in the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ. It is thus a gift, not something which we ourselves must build through our own efforts. And it is precisely because of this that it calls upon our freedom and waits for our response: communion always requires conversion, just as a gift is better if it is welcomed and utilized. In Jerusalem the first Christians were few. Nobody could have imagined what was going to take place. And the Church continues to live on that same strength which enabled it to begin and to grow. Pentecost is the original event but also a permanent dynamism, and the Synod of Bishops is a privileged moment in which the grace of Pentecost may be renewed in the Church's journey, so that the Good News may be announced openly and heard by all peoples.

Pope Benedict XVI

Homily for the Mass Inaugurating the Special Assembly of the Middle East

October 10, 2010

In this way, the "sacra canones" of the ancient Church, that inspire the Oriental codification in force, stimulate all the Oriental Churches to conserve their own identity, which is simultaneously Eastern and Catholic. In preserving the Catholic communion the Eastern Catholic Churches did not at all intend to deny their own tradition. As has been many times repeated, the full union of the Eastern Catholic Churches with the Church of Rome that is already realized must not lead to a diminution of the consciousness of the unique authenticity and originality of those Churches. For this reason it is the task of all the Eastern Catholic Churches to conserve the common disciplinary patrimony and nourish their own traditions, which is a treasure for the whole Church.

The same "sacri canones" of the first centuries of the Church constitute to a large extent the same basic patrimony of canonical discipline that also regulates the Orthodox Churches. Thus the Eastern Catholic Churches can offer a peculiar and relevant contribution to the ecumenical journey. I am happy that in the course of your symposium you have taken account of this particular aspect and I encourage you to make it an object of further study, cooperating thus for your part to the common effort to adhere to the Lord's prayer: "May all be one ... that the world may believe ..." (John 17:21).
Pope Benedict XVI
October 9, 2010
The photo of the church is from this site. The picture of bishops is from Daylife.