25 February 2018

Shared Sacramental Communion with the Byzantine Churches

I REPRINT A PIECE FROM 15 OCTOBER 2015, in view of its relevance to the questions of the relationship, at the deepest theological levels, between the Catholic Church and the Particular 'Orthodox' (or 'Separated Byzantine') Churches.

FIRST ... the GREEK CHURCHES:
 Parts of an article in the December 1959 number of the old Anglo-Papalist journal Reunion:
" ... the conclusions of a Greek book of 697 pages entitled Relations between Catholics and Orthodox by a Greek Catholic priest P. Grigoriou, editor of the Athenian weekly Katholiki. The author takes us back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

"Archbishop Anthony C. Vuccino, A.A., former Latin Bishop of Corfu, reviewed this book in La Croix. Its pages show the good relations existing in those centuries, under the Venetian and Turkish rulers, between Catholics and Orthodox in the Near and Middle East, and particularly in Greece. With the approval of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the permissuion of their own hierarchies, Catholic missionaries preached and administered frequently in Orthodox Churches. The Archbishop draws attention to such incidents as the authorisation by the Patriarch Neophyte (1611) of the absolution of his faithful by Jesuits or Capuchins and that Orthodox deacons assisted at Mass sung by P. Goar, O.P., and received communion from him. Often the Latin bishop and his clergy preached or said Mass in the Orthodox churches of Chios.

" These events are established by contemporary documents culled by the author from all the islands and mainland. Missions were preached to mixed comgregations; there were 'mixed churches' serving both rites with Latin and Oriental altars ...

"P. Grigoriou further narrates that as the procession of Corpus Christi passed by, one Orthodox bishop would offer incense from the window of his house; in Zante the platform bearing the Blessed Sacrament on Good Friday was carried by a Latin and an Orthodox bishop ... in the seventeenth century, schools were built by local Orthodox congregations where Latin priests could teach the children of the Orthodox.

"Concelebrations are also reported by the author. In 1653 Joannice, the Patriarch of Constantinople, wrote to his Metropolitans of Trebizond and New Caesarea, authorising Fr Robert, O.C., to offer Mass in their churches. Whenever Orthodox priests concelebrated with Latin clergy, the former made the Memento of the Pope. Again, concelebration by the Orthodox Archpriest and Latin priests at the same altar in the Catholic Cathedral occurred in Corfu on the 19th January, the patronal feast of St Spyridion. ... Fr Gill, S.J., comments on this indiscriminate intermingling: 'The story is almost monotonous because it was the same everywehere; nevertheless, it is astonishing'. This intercommunion was practised on a large scale, even to the inclusion of the reception of Sacred Orders.
 
"We might ask why this cooperation ended. Assuredly, P.Grigoriou tells us that Pius IX made efforts to re-establish these contacts  ... Archbishop Vuccino affirms: 'The centre of Catholicism exercised general tolerance in regard to such practices, doubtless with the aim of making up for the deficiencies of the Orthodox clergy, and of creating a more brotherly atmosphere among Christians who breathed the same air and who were already united by so much.'"

Sometimes, some 'Traditionalists' speak as if all 'Ecumenism' is an aberration to be blamed on Vatican II and roundly condemned. I think is is right to keep reminding ourselves that the sort of approach embodied in the Church's current legislation is broadly in line with immemorial praxis in the Catholic Church.  

THE FOLLOWING SECTION relates to the Russian Church: Readers of this blog will not need to be reminded of the toleration accorded by S Pius X with his own hand to the request of Metropolitan Andrew Szeptycki that "he be granted a faculty, communicable also to confessors, for dispensing the secular faithful from the law by which communicatio in sacris with Orthodox is prohibited, as often as they shall judge it in conscience to be opportune" (Rome, 17:2:1908).

It is also well to remember the neat point made by Benedict XIV, that all sacramental communicatio cannot be totally excluded on principle because every 'mixed marriage' is a Sacrament of which one Catholic and one non-Catholic are the ministers.

Reunion offers these references: Catholic Herald, 13 February 1959; Unitas, Summer 1959; Eastern Churches Quarterly, Winter 1958-59; Irenikon, XXXII, 3, 1959.
 

19 comments:

Fr Ray Blake said...

Dr Broomfieid who taught history at Wonersh in my day (pre 1983) set an examination question, "The Great Schism came about in 1870: discuss".

William Tighe said...


I remember with delight my one meeting with Fr. Broomfield, when I was living in England, in the company of my old undergraduate friend, Fr. Christopher Basden.

TomG said...

Fascinating and almost thrilling stuff!

Steve T. said...

Father, do you know where an electronic copy of that book can be procured?

Dr. Adam DeVille said...

For those wanting photographic evidence of churches, esp. in the Gk. islands, having both Latin and Byzantine altars under the same roof, see the edited collection "Innovation in the Orthodox Christian Tradition?: The Question of Change in Greek Orthodox Thought and Practice" edited by T.S. Willert et al. and published by Ashgate in 2012.

Pulex said...

"We might ask why this cooperation ended" Indeed. Has Fr. Grigoriou or Abp. Vuccino given answer to this question, or at least an attempt. And when did this happen? Sometimes the Turkish government is blamed. But it seems that this kind of ecumenism was going on under the Turkish rule.

Ordo Antiquus said...

"We might ask why this cooperation ended"

Answer:

"Any idea that the Uniate Churches were bridges to a dissident East -- whose reunion remained a prime duty and goal of Catholics -- was demolished in 1729, when the Propaganda Congregation forbade 'in terms of the utmost strictness' intercommunion (communicatio in sacris) between Catholics and Orthodox, which had been tolerated, especially for practical reasons, until then."

- Geoffrey Hull, "The Banished Heart" 2nd ed. (T&T Clark, 2010) p. 192

Hull cites Aidan Nichols OP, "Rome and the Eastern Churches: A Study in Schism" (Edinburgh, 1992), p. 285

Hull is himself a Traditionalist Catholic most sympathetic to the Eastern Churches, so his use of the term "Uniate" is likely an anachronism rather than a deliberate slight to Eastern Catholics.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

When it comes to Ecumenism, ABS supposes it would be contentious (not humorous) to refer to the orthodox participating in a dialogue with Catholics as representing a disparity of cult.

Rubricarius said...

I well recall, thirty-odd years ago now, being asked by the supply priest at the Greek Cathedral in Shepherd's Bush to serve a weekday liturgy. 'We're not Orthodox said my friend (now actually a Greek deacon) in response.' 'I asked if you could serve' replied the priest. At Communion the priest asked 'Are you receiving?' Again, our response was 'We're not Orthodox.' The priest retorted to that 'I didn't ask if you were Orthodox I asked if you were receiving Communion.' Much very good theology in that interchange I believe.

Matthew Roth said...

Rubricarius gives an interesting story. Communicatio in sacris is also fairly common in the mixed marriage situations of the Holy Land. I also have seen incense offered by Orthodox priests in videos posted online of Corpus Domini processions in Malta and other locales.

Fr PJM said...

"Disparity of cult", in canon law relating to marriage, refers to one party not being baptized. But perhaps you jest.

Dale said...

Since the 17th century the faith, liturgical practice, and beliefs of the Roman Catholic church has changed so drastically, whilst that of the Byzantine Orthodox has not, that a return to this type of limited inter-communion is now impossible. One cannot imagine a shared altar, much less a church with a Latin and Orthodox altar as a real possibility today. The thought of a Byzantine liturgy co-existing with dancing altar boys and girls, women Eucharistic ministers, mass as public entertainment (not to mention the balloons) is simply too much of a contradiction to Orthodoxy to be even imaginable.

Marco da Vinha said...

Rubricarius, some years ago I visited a Coptic Orthodox church out of a desire to experience their liturgy. The priest there, even though he knew I was Catholic, still inquired if I would like to receive communion.

The Archlaic said...

The Armenians seem very sensible about this. I grew up in a community which hosted one of the largest Armenian populations in the US. There was one church, Armenian Apostolic, and all but a few thoroughly Romanized souls attended it. Some years later, a new Armenian Catholic church was built, practically across the parking lot from the local Roman Rite parish. Surprisingly enough, a ready congregation appeared. I am told by my Armenian friends that nobody much worries about who one's bishop is, or whence one's orders or faculties are derived; if one is Armenian, one simply attends the nearest Armenian church and receives Communion if properly disposed.

coradcorloquitur said...

Purgatory? The Immaculate Conception? The Petrine office? The validity of all post-Schism councils? The traditional teaching on divorce and re-marriage? Are these not now important for maintaining a truly shared Faith as essential requirement for intercommunion? Are they dispensible now and a [superficial] unity then, as the Modernists like to affirm contra Aquinas, more important than truth? Perhaps many of us might be infected with the Francis effect where defined doctrine (or dogma, which Newman said was his sole basis for religion) is not that important and certainly no obstacle to inter-communion. What seems to matter most is the new "non-rigid" dogma: ecumenism. If so, then we are beholding the suicide of the Church.

Marko Ivančičević said...

But recieve Communion isn't just to receive Jesus. It is also to profess Communion with those from whom Communion is received. That's one of the reasons why participating in Eucharist (participatio altaris) is called Communion.
So i'd disagree with Rubricarius and say that such Eucharistic theology which disregards ecclesiology is at best incomplete.

Alana Solomon said...

So ethnicity and culture are above concerns of communion. Yikes.

coradcorloquitur said...

Alana, you comment is simply amazing to me, as I was about to post one exactly like yours a couple of days ago but decided to let it go lest I appear too confrontational. But you hit the nail exactly on the head: To say the Armenians are very sensible in putting ethnicity above the integrity of the Faith (required for a shared communion) is not only not sensible at all but astounding from a Catholic perspective.

AllEarthsVanities said...

why this cooperation ended - from the Greek Orthodox side, a valuable secondary source on the history is Ware's book on the 18th century Greek theologian, Eustratios Argenti. I attach a reference to this book. To summarize: feeling threatened by Roman Catholicism, the Patriarch Cyril V (c.1750) legislated non-recognition of Roman baptism in that era. This was indeed a theological development through Greek theologians then (such as Argenti), not an imposition by the Turks. See especially Chapter III "The Baptism Controversy", at P. 65 and 69f.

https://books.google.com/books?id=6cNNAwAAQBAJ&vq=Invalid&source=gbs_navlinks_s