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           May 27, 2013

 

 

Pioneering Renewal

Authenticity, Unity, & Renewal in the Catholic Doctrine

As Faithfully Applied in Saint Peter Diocese, USA

II. Unity

 

What does the Church teach us about the constitution of the Church?

Are the non-Catholic Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches equal in Ecclesial fullness to the Catholic Church, or is the Catholic Church, with her head, the Bishop of Rome, the fullness of Christ’s Church? Is the goal of Ecumenism simply dialogue, or is it for all to be visibly united into the one Catholic Church?

The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 1964:

Chapter2.
14.
They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops.

The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, 1965:

7. This missionary activity derives its reason from the will of God, "who wishes all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, Himself a man, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2:45), "neither is there salvation in any other" (Acts 4:12). Therefore, all must be converted to Him, made known by the Church's preaching, and all must be incorporated into Him by baptism and into the Church which is His body. For Christ Himself "by stressing in express language the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5), at the same time confirmed the necessity of the Church, into which men enter by baptism, as by a door. Therefore those men cannot be saved, who though aware that God, through Jesus Christ founded the Church as something necessary, still do not wish to enter into it, or to persevere in it."

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s Declaration “Dominus Iesus” On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church, 2000:

16. The Catholic faithful are required to profess that there is an historical continuity — rooted in the apostolic succession — between the Church founded by Christ and the Catholic Church: “This is the single Church of Christ... which our Saviour, after his resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care (cf. Jn 21:17), commissioning him and the other Apostles to extend and rule her (cf. Mt 28:18ff.), erected for all ages as ‘the pillar and mainstay of the truth' (1 Tim 3:15). This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in [subsistit in] the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him”. With the expression subsistit in, the Second Vatican Council sought to harmonize two doctrinal statements: on the one hand, that the Church of Christ, despite the divisions which exist among Christians, continues to exist fully only in the Catholic Church, and on the other hand, that “outside of her structure, many elements can be found of sanctification and truth”, that is, in those Churches and ecclesial communities which are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church. But with respect to these, it needs to be stated that “they derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”.

 

What does the Church teach us about those who join the Catholic Church from a non-Catholic Eastern tradition?

When members of the Assyrian Church of the East join the Catholic Church, are they to become generically “Catholic” without being part of a particular Rite? Or are they to become members of the Roman Rite? Or begin their own Rite? Or, on the contrary, does the CatholicChurch require that they enter their sui iuris Rite, i.e., the Chaldean Church?

Eastern Code of Canon Law, 1990:

Canon 35 - Baptized non-Catholics coming into full communion with the Catholic Church should retain and practice their own rite everywhere in the world and should observe it as much as humanly possible. Thus they are to be enrolled in the Church suiiuris of the same rite with due regard for the right of approaching the Apostolic See in special cases of persons, communities or regions.

How much is to be required of those who enter the Catholic Church, before they are fully and joyfully accepted their sui iuris Rite?

Canon 896 - Whether it is a group or an individual, no obligation except what is necessary can be imposed on the Christian faithful who have been baptized in non-Catholic Churches or ecclesial communities and who ask of their own to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.

Canon 897 - A member of the Christian faithful of an Eastern non-Catholic Church is to be received into the Catholic Church with only the profession of the Catholic faith, after doctrinal and spiritual preparation according to each one's condition.

 

The Chaldean Church through History

As an Authentic Witness of Ecclesial Unity

The issue of ecclesial unity being a major matter for our Chaldean Church at large and our diocesan communities in particular, it is our duty to explain to you what is needed in our pastoral life in regard to the Chaldean Catholic Church as the true and principal heir of the Church of the East.

The Church of the East, as Catholic since its origin: It is a scriptural truth that the Lord Jesus established his church on the foundation of the twelve apostles, prominent among them and head being Simon Bar Yawna, whom the Lord called Kepa the Rock. It is an article of Catholic faith that the Bishops are the successors of the apostles and that the Bishop of Rome is the successor of Simon Kepa. Therefore, full communion with the bishop of Rome is an essential element of the constitution of the Church, as wanted by the Lord; every particular church is fashioned in that manner. Though the expression of Roman primacy took variant and developing shape through history, nevertheless, its factuality was and remains consistently present through the ages. The Church of the East, established from apostolic times east of the Euphrates River, encompassing initially Mesopotamia, Persia, and India, understood itself accordingly.

A major expression in the East of that understanding of full communion and dependency occurred in a regional synod, which gathered in the capital city of Seleucia-Ctesiphon in 410 AD, headed by the Catholicos of the East, Mar Isaac, with Mar Marutha, the representative of the "Western Fathers," i.e. the bishops of the Catholic Church west of the Euphrates in the Roman Empire. The College of Bishops east of the Euphrates received collectively the Canons formulated and adopted in the West, in regard to faith, liturgy, morals, and administration of the Church, thus showing that the Church of the East was, and recognized itself officially to be, an integral part, not the head, of the Church catholic. A follow-up Synod, held in 420 AD, confirmed and enhanced the same characteristics of catholicity.

Fifth Century Developments: Two factors drastically changed the healthy and serene ecclesial dynamics between Christian West and East during the 5th century:

1) Political tension between the Persian and Roman empires, causing embarrassment to the Christians East of the Euphrates, and instigating accusation of their dependency and submission to the West, led to the gathering of a new Eastern synod, held in 424 AD in an Arabic region, that declared ecclesial autonomy for the Church of the East, making her "Catholicos" the final Supreme Tribunal for his faithful and clergy.

2) The Christological controversy leading to the condemnation of Nestorius in the tumultuous Council of Ephesus (431 AD), followed by another Council, of Chalcedon (451 AD), that clarified further the Christological doctrine, making it more explicit and final. A following condemnation of Theodore of Mopsuestia that occurred in the “Three Chapters” pronouncements in 553, resulted in the drift of the Church of the East into an isolated course of ecclesiastic life for a millennium.

Though the Mesopotamian Church of the East is a great expression of Christian faith and ecclesial achievement, the negative ripple effects of these drastic factors were manifold through the centuries, and are found until the present time in the separated segment of this Church, called recently (1979) the “Assyrian Church of the East.”

THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST TODAY IN REGARD TO:

     a) Christology: Since then the Christological doctrine of the Church catholic was: in Christ there are two natures in one Person; it was formulated, in the meantime, in the Church of the East in these terms: there is in Christ two natures, two "Qnome," and one Person. The ambivalence is in the meaning of the term "Qnoma," which may indicate a hypostasis in the sense of a concrete self-standing individual, or an individuality in the sense of an individualized nature, i.e. with individual properties. Moreover, standing in defense of the person of Theodore and Nestorius, and refusing to use at all the commonly recognized title of Mary "Mother of God," made the Church of the East to be labeled "Nestorian" and therefore heretical for Catholics and Orthodox alike. This is the stand of the Assyrian Church of the East today.

     b) Ecclesiology: Christianity East of the Euphrates, up to the Chinese See, formed its own ecclesiastic organization whose center was the Catholicos, then Patriarch, of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (with later residence in Baghdad), with the title of Patriarch of Babylon as the ultimate historic reference. Despite many attempts of rapprochement between the hierarchs of this church and the See of Rome, autonomy and isolation have marked the ecclesial life of this glorious and enduring church, resulting today in a conscious and persistent denial and rejection of the juridical primacy of the See of Rome in the Assyrian Church of the East.

     c) Liturgy: The Mesopotamian Anaphora of Addai and Mari remained the only original ritual for Eucharistic consecration maintaining its Apostolic core without the addition of the narrative of Eucharistic Institution, mingled with the passage of time with many additions, some of them legendary like the Malka* story of holy leaven tracing itself back to the Last Supper. In the 6th century, two Anaphoras were added, under the names of Theodore and Nestorius, combining in their structure the 5th-6th Century Antiochian pattern with the ancient Mesopotamian one. Though in 2001 the Holy See fittingly and properly recognized the archaic Anaphora of Addai and Mari as a valid prayer of consecration, the assertion of the Assyrian Church of the East in the “Malka” as necessary for validity makes the Eucharistic theology of that church deficient.

     d) Sacramental Theology: A major ambivalence is to be noticed in regard to Matrimony, being included by some Mesopotamian theologians (Mar Timothy II, +1318) in the list of Sacraments, but not included in the list of others, noticeably 'Abdisho' d-Soba whose List of Sacraments** is formally adopted by the hierarchy of the Assyrian Church of the East. Furthermore, the Unction of the Sick, while available in the liturgical books, became obsolete in contemporary Assyrian Church of the East pastoral life , as also happened with the Sacrament of Absolution or Reconciliation, thus making deficient both the theological doctrine and sacramental practice of the Assyrian Church of the East, in that regard.

     e) Iconography: With the heavy influence of the Old Testament and the Moslem cultural surrounding, most churches and monasteries of the Church of the East were deprived of Icons, in opposition to dogmatic definitions overwhelmingly prevailing in East and West, Catholic and Orthodox, against popular and enriched piety, against faith expressions in Christian art, and in contrast with the ancient and official heritage of the Church of the East itself. This rejection of holy icons remains until today the belief practice of the Assyrian Church of the East.

     f) Basic Canon Law and Patriarchal Dynasty: The collapse of monastic life in the 14th-15th century ended up in a penury of candidates for episcopacy, resulting in the adoption of a hereditary system of succession for the office of patriarch and metropolitans, from uncle to nephew, which caused a major alienation in ecclesial life. This system was followed by the original dynasty of the Church of the East from Shim'un Basidi (1437-1497) up to the last of the Abuna patriarchs, Yohannan Hormiz, who finalized ecclesial unity with Rome in 1830; it was followed as well by the successors of Sulaka’s line, who, settling in Qochanis with Shim'un XIII Denha (1662-1700), and remaining in it until the atrocities of World War I, severed communion ties with Rome around 1700, while readopting the heredity system up to the late patriarch Shim’un XXIII (+1975), whose successor is the present patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Dinkha IV (III).

     g) Priestly Celibacy: While the Christian East has continuously allowed married men to become priests, it does not allow ordained priests to marry.

Nevertheless, against basic canon law and fundamental theology and spirituality, and in fact emulating Bar Sawma (+496) the Nestorian bishop of Nisibis, the contemporary Assyrian Church of the East allows ordained celibate Chaldean Catholic priests, who solemnly accepted perpetual celibacy in the Catholic Church, to marry, forfeiting by their own arbitrary will their priestly obligation made to the Lord God; moreover, they are given parishes by the schismatic Church and are fully allowed to exercise the priestly ministry. Furthermore, as a matter of fact, for more than a century, not one monastery or convent existed within the separated segment now called the Assyrian Church of the East. What a spiritual desolation!

Major Historic Stations of the Unity Movement:

Biblical and Christian Mesopotamia, with Babylon, or its neighboring cities, as the patriarchal center geographically and culturally, has been a great historic reference for many spiritual and intellectual matters; nevertheless, ambivalence in major dogmatic, moral, and canonical issues, as shown above, was to be observed in its doctrinal core for generations, ending up in the middle of the XV century with malaise then internal schism, in order to rectify serious shortcomings and ambiguities.

With Metropolitan Timothy in Cyprus:

A regional moment of truth came in the "Nestorian" Diocese of Cyprus, within the negotiations of the Lateran Council under the leadership of its Metropolitan Timothy, who concluded a pact of unity with the Pope of Rome in 1445 AD with these his words: "I, Timothy, Archbishop of Tarsus for the Chaldeans and Metropolitan of those of them who are in Cyprus...will remain always under your obedience…and the obedience of the Holy Roman Church, it being the mother and head of all Churches."

With Yohannan Sulaqa (1551-1553 AD):

A major wave of ecclesial unity occurred one century later, when three bishops of the Church of the East, i.e. of of Arbil, of Salamas and of Urmia, decided to attempt a major and decisive reform of their apostolic church, and Rome was the valid reference. They needed the recognition and consecration of a new patriarch, whom they elected in the person of Yohannan Sulaqa, the abbot of their major monastery of Rabban Hormizd. To make their point, they sent him with credentials and a great entourage to Jerusalem, and from there he continued to Rome, which he reached on 15 November 1552, with a small delegation.

It took the Holy See some time to examine the whole matter, and finally in 9 April 1553 Pope Julius III consecrated Abbot Sulaqa Bishop, recognizing him as Patriarch of his Church, and a new era opened for the ancient Church of the East. The first ecclesiastic consequence was the initiation, with Sulaqa, of a new patriarchal dynasty in full communion with Rome which would also become hereditary during the 17th century and eventually be in opposition to Rome.

Meanwhile, history will make a new major twist implying a total reversal of positions in the patriarchal dynasties, with the original Apostolic line coming into full communion with Rome, as we will see. Most of all, the comprehensive result of achieving full communion with the Roman See makes us celebrate with humility but with gratitude to the grace of God the solid fact that the Chaldean Catholic Church holds today and for perpetuity a fully orthodox position.

THE CHALDEAN CATHOLIC CHURCH TODAY IN REGARD TO:

1) Christology, by accepting all the Ecumenical councils including the Council of Ephesus and the Council of Chalcedon, confessing our Lord Jesus Christ as one Person in two complete natures, the divine and the human, and praying with great Catholic piety the Ave Maria including the popular Marian title "Mother of God." Furthermore, for the Chaldean theologian who would like to use the terms of his Mesopotamian School, including the term "Qnoma," this subtle term of the eastern approach may be used, even within a defendable presentation, as a conceptual theological enrichment, and be considered as a relevant contribution to Catholic doctrine, i.e. by understanding "Qnoma" not as "independent person" but as "individuated nature." Thus, we could say that Christ is one Person in whom two individuated natures (the divine and the human) consist, each of them preserving its individual properties referred to as Qnome.

2) Ecclesiology: In line with Mar Isaac the Catholicos of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, 'Abdisho' Archbishop of Sawba recognized (around 1320 AD) the "Patriarch of Rome" as the Head of all patriarchs, including the Patriarch of Babylon, he being the First among them. Similarly, several liturgical, canonical and patristic documents profess the primacy of Rome and its Bishop, because in it Peter and Paul terminated their apostolate and ministry, in it received the crown of martyrdom, and in it their tombs are venerated. The Chaldean Church pioneered and became first, among all Eastern Churches, in realizing full communion with Rome since 1553.

3) Liturgy: With faithfulness to basic Mesopotamian Apostolic tradition, all liturgical books have being adjusted and completed to express orthodox Christology, Catholic sacramental theology and system, and rich devotional and popular practices. The provision of an authentic liturgical reform with organic growth is at the present time at hand, and may become the dynamic engine for a genuine collective renaissance.

4) Sacramental Theology: The Chaldean Catholic Church, clergy and people, live solidly a spiritual life in the ecclesiastic framework of the Seven Sacraments, enriched by many educational programs and seasonal and daily devotions: Catechism courses, Absolution Rite and First Communion, Bible Studies, Way of the Cross, Eucharistic Adoration, Month of Our Lady, Month of St. Joseph...etc. An authentic eastern spirituality could not at all be compromised, but very genuinely enriched by the heritage of the Church universal.

5) Iconography: Though many, including some Chaldean clergy, think that the tradition of the ancient Church of the East does not include icons, this belief is certainly a mistake if we consider the relevant documents that precede Islam. Therefore, the Chaldean Catholic Church in its current common practice, that rejects iconoclasm, not only adheres to the orthodox doctrine, but reflects also faithfully the genuine Mesopotamian tradition.

6) The Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon in direct line of succession with Original Apostolic dynasty: A continuous chain of hierarchs, reaching to and beginning with the Apostles Thomas and Addai and Mari, is found in the history books of the Church of the East. This Church, falling under the shifting conditions of empires and rulers, with the changing of capitals, adopted the stable title of "Patriarch of Babylon" for its supreme hierarch since the beginning of the 14th century, and settled for patriarchal residence in Alqosh, Northern Iraq, during the 15th century and substituted the canonical electoral system with a hereditary system from uncle to nephew (with the renowned family name of Bi-Abuna). While Youhannan Sulaka was recognized by Rome as the Patriarch of the Catholic segment of the Church of the East in 1553, a new patriarchal dynasty began with him, side by side with the original dynasty. The last patriarch of this original dynasty, Yohannan Hormizd, united himself and his Church with the Holy See and was recognized by Rome as Patriarch of Babylon in 1830. The current patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Mar Louis Raphael I Sako, is the direct descendent of that apostolic dynasty.

7) Priestly and Monastic Celibacy: In faithfulness to the evangelic Lordly councils, the institutions of monastic life thrive today in the Chaldean Catholic Church, the celibate priesthood is also the common condition of the priestly ministry. A priest who has solemnly accepted celibacy in dedication to the Kingdom, if he fails to maintain it, must request absolution from none other than the Roman Pontiff, and if granted he must cease fully the exercise of priestly ministry. Therefore, those Chaldean priests who departed from their Catholic Church and joined the separated Assyrian Church of the East have dared to absolve themselves from the priestly commitment to celibacy, attempted marriage with the active participation of the clergy of that separated Church and with the approval of the hierarchy of that same church, are, by the force of the Canon Law of the Church universal, removed from all ecclesiastic office and, by joining a church which is not in full communion with the successor of Peter, have made themselves deprived of full communion with the Catholic Church. Therefore, all sacramental and ministerial services that these priests may be willing to offer are to be considered illegitimate, illicit and scandalous to our faithful. See for this matter the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches:

Canon 976: 1. One is removed from an ecclesiastical office by the law itself:

1 who has lost the clerical state;

2 who has publicly defected from the Catholic faith or from the communion of the Catholic Church;

3 a cleric who has attempted marriage even if only civilly.

Canon 396: Except for the case in which the invalidity of sacred ordination has been declared, loss of the clerical state does not carry with it a dispensation from the obligation of celibacy, which is granted only by the Roman Pontiff.

 

 

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* The Holy Leaven or Malka is a Church of the East legend whose origins are traced to the twelfth century AD. It alleges that remnants of the Qurbana distributed to the disciples by the Lord were preserved by one of the disciples and then annually renewed, in order to be mingled with the flour used to prepare the leavened bread (host) before the celebration of every Qurbana. For us as Catholic theologians applying the Sacred Scriptures and Catholic dogma, Malka has no consecrational value, but may function as a visible sign of historical continuity connecting the celebration of Qurbana with the Last Supper.

** In his theological work the Marganitha, though ‘Abdish’ d-Soba does not include Matrimony in his list of Church Sacraments, nevertheless he fairly deals with Matrimony & Virginity in the same section where he treats the other Church Sacraments, thus allowing for the possibility to consider Matrimony as one of the Church Sacraments, according to the Church of the East's theological thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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