Pope Benedict's 'Impelling Duty' is to rebuild the full and visible unity of this Church. It will be forged through orthodoxy (right teaching) and orthopraxy (right practice) but it will be lived within a legitimate diversity of expression within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
ROME, Italy (Catholic Online) - On April 20, 2005 newly elected Pope Benedict XVI gave his first message at the end of a Mass he had concelebrated with the members of the College of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. He signaled his mission:
"Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics cannot but feel encouraged to strive for the full unity for which Christ expressed so ardent a hope in the Upper Room. The Successor of Peter knows that he must make himself especially responsible for his Divine Master's supreme aspiration. Indeed, he is entrusted with the task of strengthening his brethren (cf. Luke 22: 32).
"With full awareness, therefore, at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome which Peter bathed in his blood, Peter's current Successor takes on as his primary task the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, his impelling duty."
However, the announcement on October 20, 2009 that an Apostolic Constitution would establish a "Personal Ordinariate" for Anglican Christians and their Clergy to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church - while retaining elements of their distinctive Anglican identity - seemed to surprise many in both the religious and secular press.
A Wall Street Journal article written by Stacy Meichtry was originally entitled The Great Unifier? (now entitled "For the Vatican, New Resolve to Expand the Catholic Fold") prompted my comment in an article I wrote, "Though worth reading, it is the Title which will endure. The question mark will fall away as this historic moment unfolds over the coming years. Pope Benedict XVI is indeed the Great Unifier."
Meichtry claimed "Few expected Pope Benedict to reach out to other Christian churches aggressively when he was elected in April 2005". However, anyone aware of the writings, history and ecclesiology (theology of the Church) of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, knew this would happen. I, along with many other observers of this extraordinary Christian leader,were not surprised. I wrote back then and I reaffirm today, he is only warming up.
Another Wall Street Journal article written in October of 2009 by Francis X. Rocca entitled "The Pope Lets a Thousand Liturgies Bloom" is now unavailable online. The Vatican correspondent for the Religious news Service wrote:
"It may seem ironic that Pope Benedict should be presiding over such diversification of worship. After all, as head of the Vatican's doctrinal office for more than two decades prior to his 2005 election as pope, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger built a reputation as the church's most vigilant guardian of orthodoxy, receiving the nickname "God's Rottweiler." Benedict is hardly permissive when it comes to liturgy."
"Though even most Catholics are not aware of it, many sanctioned modes of worship have co-existed within the church over its 2,000-year history. The Ambrosian Rite, celebrated only in certain parts of northern Italy, with its own special prayers, vestments and type of chant, is one of the most ancient, dating back at least to the fourth century. Not to speak of the many Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome, which share a rich liturgical heritage with Eastern Orthodoxy."
However, it was the Italian Catholic Journalist who most accurately expressed the continuity in the Pope's prophetic action. In an article entitled "Knock, and It Shall Be Opened to You. As Long As It's According to Tradition" he noted that "Today more than ever, with Joseph Ratzinger as pope, the ecumenical journey seems not a pursuit of modernity, but a return to the terrain of tradition."
Pope Benedict's 'Impelling Duty' is to rebuild the full and visible unity of this Church. It will be forged through orthodoxy (right teaching) and orthopraxy (right practice) but it will be lived within a legitimate diversity of expression within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. That is the context within which the historic meeting in Rome on September 14, 2011 between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and the representatives of the SSPX should be prayerfully considered. Here is the report from Vatican Radio:
"The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada held a meeting on Wednesday with the Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of St Pius X (SSPX) at the offices of the CDF in the Vatican, during the course of which the Cardinal Prefect presented the Superior General with a statement of principles they are calling a "Doctrinal Preamble" as part of the regularization of the canonical status of the SSPX, as well as some proposals regarding the concrete form a fully reconciled SSPX might take under canon law.
"The Vatican did not give the society a deadline, though the Director of the Holy See's Press Office told reporters that SSPX leaders are expected to study and sign the preamble "within a few months." Regarding the elements of a canonical solution for the society, it was suggested that a plausible solution could be a personal prelature - a church jurisdiction without geographical boundaries designed to carry out particular pastoral initiatives.
"A communique issued by the Vatican on Wednesday retraces the recent history of relations between the SSPX and the Holy See:
"Following the supplication addressed by the SSPX Superior General to Pope Benedict XVI on December 15th, 2008, the Holy Father decided to lift the excommunications against the four bishops consecrated by SSPX founder, Archbishop Marcel LeFebvre, and at the same time to open discussions with the SSPX, for the purpose of clarifying outstanding doctrinal questions and overcoming the existing division.
"Obedient to the will of the Holy Father, a mixed commission of experts was formed to study the questions, drawing members from both the SSPX and the CDF. The commission met eight times in Rome between October 2009 and April 2011. These discussions, which had the purpose of expounding and exploring in depth the essential doctrinal difficulties with controverted themes, have achieved the goal of clarifying the positions of each party, as well as the reasons for those positions.
"Also taking into account the concerns and the issues presented by the SSPX regarding the integrity of the Catholic faith considering the hermeneutic of rupture of the Second Vatican Council with respect to Tradition - mentioned by Pope Benedict XVI in his Address to the Roman Curia of December 22, 2005 - the CDF maintains that a fundamental basis of full reconciliation with the Apostolic See is the acceptance of the Doctrinal Preamble which was delivered during the course of today's (Wed., September 14th, 2011) meeting.
"This preamble enunciates some of the doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation of Catholic doctrine necessary to guarantee fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church and sentire cum Ecclesia (thinking with [the mind of] the Church), while at the same time leaving the theological study and explanation of particular expressions and formulations present in the texts of the Second Vatican Council and of the Magisterium that followed it open to legitimate discussion.
In the course of the same meeting, some elements were proposed regarding a canonical solution for the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, which would follow the eventual and hoped-for reconciliation."
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