DAILY CATHOLIC     WEDNESDAY     September 30, 1998     vol. 9, no. 191

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II today met with five patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic churches, and urged them to participate actively in dialogue with the Orthodox churches.

          In greeting the patriarchs, the Holy Father cited the words of Pope Leo XIII, spoken at a meeting with the Eastern leaders in 1984: "It is to give an indisputable proof of our affection that we have called you to Rome, wishing to speak with you, wishing to highlight the prestige of your patriarchal authority." Pope John Paul said that he wished to "make those words his own," and he repeated that the patriarchs are "fathers and chiefs" of their churches. Thus he stressed "the solemnity and importance" of today's meeting.

          The Church leaders gathered with the Pope were Patriarchs Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir of Antioch (Maronite), Maximos V Hakim of Antioch (Melkite), Jean-Pierre Kasparian of Cilicia (Armenian), Stephanos II Ghattas of Alexandria (Coptic), and Raphael I Bidawid of Babylon (Chaldean).

          The Pope observed that the universal Church has shown a keener understanding of the Eastern churches in recent years; he cited the promulgation of the new Code of Canon Law for the Eastern churches in October 1990, and his own apostolic letter Orientale Lumen. In that letter the Pope emphasized the need to preserve and nurture the traditions and spirituality of the Eastern churches. Today he told the patriarchs that they must conserve their "specific liturgical, spiritual, theological, and canonical treasures" so that the Gospel can be offered to the Church and the world with an ever greater abundance."

          At the same time, the Pope did not shrink from discussion of the Petrine ministry, which remains a contentious subject with the Orthodox churches. He suggested-- again repeating the message of his apostolic letter-- the need to define the function of the papacy carefully, as a service of unity for the entire Church.

          The Eastern patriarchs, the Pope continued, are themselves signs of unity within the Church, acting as the heads of their respective synods. He also stressed the role that the Eastern Catholic churches can play in the effort to restore full communion with the Orthodox churches.

Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
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September 30, 1998       volume 9, no. 191


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