Rorate Caeli

Are the traditional Eastern liturgies an obstacle to the "New Evangelization"?

Earlier this week, Zenit published an interview with a young Italian priest trained by the Neocatechumenal Way and now incardinated in the Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt. (A PRIEST IN EGYPT -  Father Orazio Patrone Gives an Outsider's View of Christian Life.) Reproduced below are his comments regarding the Coptic liturgy and penitential tradition, comments that echo many of the perjorative statements routinely made by liturgical progressivists against the Traditional Roman liturgy, and significant in the light of the Neocatechumenal Way's growing influence and involvement in the Eastern Catholic Churches. 

In connection with this, our readers might remember that the Patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt, Antonios Cardinal Naguib, was the relator for the 2010 Synod of Bishops on the Middle East, which called for a major reform of the Eastern liturgies (see this as well). Emphases mine.

ZENIT: How are intense times, such as Lent and Easter, lived?  

Father Patrone: The season of Lent is lived very intensely, with strict fasting, lived devotionally more than as an occasion of preparation for Easter. Perhaps this is dictated also by the strong influence of the Muslim month of Ramadan. As well, the sacrificial aspect of Good Friday is stressed more than the fundamental importance of the Easter Resurrection. In fact, the funeral of the Lord is celebrated with a very long liturgy as was the custom of the pre-conciliar Latin Churches. Its importance is seen in the fact that participation in worship on Good Friday is almost double that of what it is on Easter Sunday.  

ZENIT: What do you intend to do for the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization?  

Father Patrone: The Church in Egypt is very tied to her traditions, especially those in the liturgy, and has difficulty in entering the dynamism of the New Evangelization desired by Vatican II. On the other hand, there are attempts and openings especially by the Catholic side, which is attentive to and relatively involved in what happens in the West. This is demonstrated, among other things, by the opening, though slow, to charisms that emerged after the Council. In parishes there are now groups such as the Focolares and the Neo-Catechumenal Way, and other movements born in Egypt with the intention of a renewal in the sense of a New Evangelization.

There is scarcely any clear reference here (and in the rest of the article) to the fact that the Coptic Christian people have given a magnificent witness of suffering and martyrdom at the hands of Muslims for nearly 1,400 years, a feat that could scarcely have been possible without that people's demanding liturgical tradition and its long fasts. (One reference each to "sporadic" persecution and to "social" discrimination, and a couple of references to "fundamentalism", simply don't cut it.)

Egypt is also home to Byzantine and Armenian-Rite communities. 


  1. Francis6:41 PM

    Same garbage that the liberals and the modernists in the Roman Rite have been spewing since the Council. Now they want to dismantle anything they consider traditional in the Eastern Rites. Now that the Holy Father has given the heretical NCW the green light the NCW can start infecting the Eastern churches. All the modernists need now is an ally in the CDF, someone like Bishop Mueller who can rubber stamp anything these people want. Lord help us!

  2. I would encourage Fr. Patrone to enter into the dynamism of traditional Christianity as it was lived for the first two millenia. To approach a Christian community whose faith survived some 1300 years of Muslim persecution, and then to find fault with it for not conforming to "the Way" is shockingly narrow minded.

  3. There *might* be a kernel of a point about the difficulties faced by Eastern communities in evangelizing, but this has far more to do with the kind of strong ethnic identification involved with autocephaly - they identify not merely as a rite, but too often as an ethnicity. But that has almost nothing to do with their liturgies.

    In any event, just how in the blazes are the Copts supposed to be evangelizing in Egypt? They live as a beleaguered minority in an Islamic majority society, much of which looks for any opportunity to attack the Copts. A vigorous attempt to proselytize Muslim Egyptians (the only non-Coptic Egyptians of any note) would result in something aproaching civil war - a war the Copts would lose badly.

    In any event, it's not just the Copts who might be suspicious of entering into the "dynamism of the New Evangelization."

  4. Sequentia7:07 PM

    The fact that Coptic Christians even exists today is evidence of a spiritual dynamism more powerful than anything the New Evangelization has ever witnessed. The Neocatechumenal Way might be suited to first world suburbs, but it will be interesting to see how it fares in communities of Christian who know they could be martyred the next time they attend Liturgy.

  5. Anonymous7:33 PM

    I'd love to hear more about these "charisms that emerged after Vatican II". Sounds like the Holy Spirit was waiting 1930 years before finally unleashing these charisms. Thankfully we had the council and the Neo-Cat way to help out! Boy, all those pre-Vatican II saints were missing out on these charisms.

  6. Prof. Basto7:55 PM

    So, now the "New Evangelization" is desired by the Second Vatican Council?

    When is the Church going to admit that the only reason why we need a New Evangelization is the mess created by Vatican II, and that, therefore, the purpose of any authentic New Evangelization drive must be to UNDO the mess created by that unfortunate Council?

  7. Prof. Basto7:59 PM

    Good Friday is much more important than Easter.

    It is the Sacrifice of the Calvary that consummated our Redemption, accomplishing the salvific plan of God.

    It is the Sacrifice of the Calvary that is reenacted at every Mass, when the Body and Blood of the Lord are offered anew.

    It is the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Cross, that is the symbol of the Christian religion, hence the crosses, the crucifixes, and the signs of the Cross.

    The "sacrificial aspect" is not an "aspect". It is all important! It has the central place in the History of Salvation!

  8. Texana8:02 PM

    Seems to me instead of trying to change centuries of liturgical prayer just when the Muslim Brotherhood is declaring all out war on Christians, Fr. Patrone might observe their piety and strength of faith as something from which Kiko and Carment could benefit.

  9. Prof. Basto
    I must respectfully disagree with your assertion that Great and Holy Friday is more important than Pascha / Easter. Yes, the Cross was vital. But it would have been meaningless without the Resurrection. Holy Pascha is the greatest day on the Church Calendar, and I believe that this was, and is still true in the Christian West.

  10. Confuzzled8:38 PM

    "the dynamism of the New Evangelization desired by Vatican II."

    What exactly does this mean?

  11. Prof. Basto9:07 PM


    Easter is the greatest FEAST, of course (Good Friday is not a feast, on the other hand), and of course we commemorate Easter every week by marking Sunday as the Day of the Lord. Of course the Ressurection of Christ, the firstborn of the dead, is of extreme importance.

    But the opening up of the Kingdom of Heaven would not have been possible without Our Lord's sacrifice on the Cross. It is the Sacrifice of the Calvary that makes Easter possible.

    Easter is the manifestation of Victory, but that Victory is won on the Cross. It is on the Cross that our Lord defeats the Devil, and opens the possibility of the beatific vision for mankind.

    It is for the act of the Sacrifice of the Cross that the Lord is called "Redeemer", "Saviour". In that act he accomplishes his messianic role.

    It is in the Cross that the Lord acts as the Supreme and Eternal Priest, who at once is the author of the offering and the object of that offering.

    The unbloody offering of bread and wine at the Last Supper, when the Christian Priesthood and the Eurcharist are instituted, is an offering that prefigures the Body pinned on the Cross, and the Blood shed on the Cross. Just like every Mass makes the Calvary present afresh, the Last Supper made the Calvary present in advance. So the Calvary is the central point, the central mystery.

    The extremely important moment of the Ressurection of the Lord, accomplished by the power of the blessed Trinity, simply completes and manifests a victory that had already been won, for it was by dying on the Cross that our Saviour destroyed the powers of death.

    The traditional Liturgy of the Roman Church is one that places great stress on the sacrifice of our Redeemer, whereas the liberals, the iconoclasts who drafted the Novus Ordo in comitee, and the champions of a watered down religion, are the ones that are constantly acting to omit references to the sacrifice of the Calvary (churches without crosses on the Altar, liturgies that almost do not mention sacrifice even in the eucharistic prayers, etc).

    One of the strategies employed by the liberals to obliterate the sacrificial nature of Holy Mass is to place over-emphasis on the "paschal mystery" as having its central point on the moment of Ressurection only, ignoring the fact that the ressurection was won on the Cross.

  12. I just wonder, why Neocaths and this Fr. Patrone does not try to to spread the Christian Faith among muslims, instead of proselytizing the Coptic Christians. As far as I remember certain St. Francis acted differently among the Mahometans.

  13. Kevin B.9:16 PM

    It's not surprising that the Copts are not open to the New Evangelization. They never tried to destroy themselves through efforts to update their traditional practices.

  14. "(The Church in Egypt)is very tied to her traditions, especially those in the liturgy, and has difficulty in entering the dynamism of the New Evangelization desired by Vatican II." Thank God!!! The "kikos" o neocatecumenal way has made a lot of damage in the liturgy, is becoming like a cult inside the Catholic church and the leaders, Carmen and Kiko Arguello are greedy for power inside the Vatican. The "kikos" have altered and made their own liturgy, they extract big donations from their members and sometimes, they make bizarre ceremonies only for them. In Spain, they have divided parrishioners in two sides, they have been ejected from others and encourage their people to marry another member of the same "kikos".

  15. Anonymous9:51 PM

    I just read the above article, and its external links. Indeed, the Novus Ordo and its many abberrant variants (such as the heretical liturgy of the Neo-Catechumenal Way) are disrupting Eastern Catholic liturgical life, as the Patriarch of Jerusalem complained about a couple years ago. I am sure, that, if drastic liturgical reform of the Eastern Rites will be attempted, for whatever reason, the patient (Eastern Rite Catholicism) will die of the cure rather than of the illness, and Eastern Uniatism with Rome will be exposed for what the Eastern Orthodox always believed it to be: a Trojan horse whose purpose is to bring down orthodox christianity. What is really needed is better catechesis in order to teach Eastern-Rite Catholics to better know, appreciate and take part in their Liturgy, rather than the descecration of their sacred Rites. (That is what the Latin Church needed too, but instead of catechesis, we got total destrucion of all that was sacred to us.) The Eastern-Rite Catholic Hierarchs should look at the ruins of the Western Church and learn the needed lesson, and most of all, shun the wolves in sheeps clothes called ''Neo-Catechumenal Way''.of

  16. The Orthodox are going to have a field day if this grows, and rightfully so.

  17. Andrew11:11 PM

    Wasn't Vatican II very clear that the Eastern Rites should be allowed to express themselves in the fullest sense of their tradition?

    In other words, the should be fully Eastern and not adapt bizarre innovations. Even when Vatican II is implemented (i.e. being fully Eastern) there are those in the Church who want to change things to fit their vision of things.

    The Eastern Church has done just fine with its ancient liturgies and traditions (their Masses were written by saints and Church Fathers). They should leave them alone!

    If anyone wants to see an Eastern Rite parish that has fully embraced Vatican II's true vision for the East (no short-cuts or liturgical innovation), check out the following web page...especially their youtube channel. They are as traditional as you get. So much so that even the Orthodox speak well of them.

  18. One thing that is particularly asinine, is this priest's complete ignorance of Tradition. The Coptic fast is the apostolic tradition of fasting practiced since the first millennium. While in the west various exceptions culminated in fasting only without the mandated abstinence throughout Lent, in the East they maintained all the abstinence with the daily fast (no meat, no dairy, no eggs, no oil). It varies very little throughout the Eastern rites, except in America it is optional and only Wednesday and Friday are mandatory. It has nothing to do with Ramadan, in fact Ramadan was developed from what Muhammed knew was the fasting custom in Egypt!

    I think it would be good for Catholics everywhere to adopt the Eastern tradition of fasting every day with abstinence from the above named food products. I did that three years ago, even as a Roman Catholic, giving up meat one year, and the rest the next year. We need the grace and protection that comes from that. I hope that the Copts send these nuts packing.

  19. dominic19553:07 AM

    Where do they get these clowns? If they tried to make the Coptic Rite all happy slappy "Vatican II" clappy the Copts would likely go Orthodox or Muslim. Their devotion to tradition is probably what gets them through all the hardships of living along side aggressive Muslims in the first place.

    Besides, who is some Italian Neo-Cat to tell the Copts what they ought to be doing? This is much worse than when Western priests tried to Latinize the Easterners back in the day and were rightly reproved for it. At least back then the Latin Rite was in good shape.

    I thought Vatican II spoke about preserving liturgical Rites in their fullness? Obviously we know that this is not what the Modernists meant, but that's what it says. Preserving the Rites will not be done by adopting all the worst schmaltzy and adulterated practices and theologies of the Post-Vatican II Latin Rite.

  20. Being an Eastern Catholic from the Middle-East, I can definitively say that his understanding of the Eastern Catholic Churches is only found in his own mind.

    In the case of this priest, ignorance isn't bliss but it is gravely dangerous.

  21. P.K.T.P.1:40 PM

    Well, this explains the urgent need to suppress and eradicate the Neo-Catatonical Way. But we already knew that it is anathema to the Catholic Church.

    Has anyone seen the Pope's statement this morning? He has responded to the S.S.P.X! It's not exciting, though: he bounces the ball back to Bishop Fellay. The Pope's response is interesting in what it does NOT say. Since it threatens a "rupture of painful and incalculable consequences", it can be inferred that a formal schism, which is a complete rupture, must not already be in place. Whether or not a formal schism might follow if Bishop Fellay fails to respond adequately, is not specified: the Pope does not say that a formal schism would result but a rupture of "incalculable consequences".

    Back to the drawing board.


  22. Joseph2:55 PM

    Oh yes by all means we need to help these poor people and the rest of the Eastern Catholic Churches "get with it".(LIKE REMOVING THE "FILIOQUE" OUT OF THE CREED!)

    Who has a boat load of felt banners and "glory and prase" hymnals we can send them?

  23. Hogwash5:47 PM

    New evangelism = "encounters & hugs"

  24. Johnny Domer3:16 AM

    Unless I'm much mistaken, the term "New Evangelization" doesn't even appear in the text of any of the documents of Vatican II. I think Bl. John Paul coined the term and its definition. So there's really no "New Evangelization" envisioned by Vatican II. Still, that mistake is hardly the worst thing about this interview.

  25. Johnny Domer3:35 AM

    Furthermore, I don't see how the concept of the "New Evangelization," as properly understood from reading the actual Magisterial documents wherein Bl. John Paul discusses it, is actually anything objectionable to traditionalist sensibilities, really. It just means (at least how I read Bl. John Paul explain it, which I take to be definitive) a focus on re-evangelizing once-Catholic nations whose religious vigor has gone moribund. In many ways it's a tacit admission of the total nosedive the Church took following Vatican II. I guess I get a little miffed at the idea that it's a particularly "New" concept--I'm pretty sure that St. Vincent Ferrer was re-evangelizing moribund Catholic groups pretty darn well way before we had some label for it. Aside from that, I can't say that I find anything wrong with the essential concept.

    The problem is that liberal-leaning people like Fr. Patrone just co-opt the term to mean whatever they want, and that they aren't corrected by anyone.

  26. May God grant the Eastern Rites the wisdom to avoid the neo-modernist virus which has decimated the Roman Rite! May they learn from our tragic mistake, and avoid inane, toxic, bog-minded pseudo-spirituality.


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