The Holy See
back up


Chicago, October 31, 2006



Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies,
Reverend Fathers,
Religious women and men,
dear brothers and sisters:

1.  Please accept my profound gratitude for the opportunity to be with you for this important meeting of the Eastern Catholic Churches. And may I extend sincere appreciation to their Eminences Francis Cardinal George – for his gracious hospitality - and to Lubomyr Cardinal Husar - Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church -  as well as to Bishop Nicholas Samra, and to each of those who have organized this event. You have laboured long to achieve today’s success in assembling Eastern Catholic faithful so that we may pray together, reflect together, listen and learn together. This meeting is truly in keeping with the will of the Fathers of Vatican Council II, when they encouraged the Eastern Churches to foster consolidated pastoral action so as to communicate their witness more effectively within the Church and throughout the world.   

2.  You have wisely chosen as your theme: “Evangelization through the Celebration of the Mysteries.” For modern society needs a reminder that the sacraments are meant to be “lived as a tool of evangelization.” Liturgy publicly manifests what we believe. What we believe is the universal invitation to embrace Jesus Christ as Saviour, the fulfilment of the world’s every hope and desire.

3. Here I am reminded that there is a link between the goal of evangelization and the culture in which we celebrate the Divine Mysteries. Liturgy exists in context. As  Orientalium Ecclesiarum, describes so eloquently (cf. N. 4): our respective Eastern hierarchies, along with our unique identities and jurisdictions, must recognize that we share in the task of contributing to the common mission of the whole Church. Our rich theological patrimony, together with our liturgical rites and traditions and our specific expressions of ecclesial discipline, are not our private possessions.  Instead, they are intended to transform society, because they enable society to recognize the strength of vision that is expressed in the bonds of our mutual love, in our fidelity to the Gospel and in our full ecclesial communion with Peter and his successors.

4. The modern world yearns for role models. It proclaims to need what we proclaim to offer – a heritage of faith supported by reason and rooted in revelation, in God Himself. What society knows that it lacks, we know that we embody. For our identity is that of a sign of persuasive and objective truth, the truth Who is Christ, the truth which is the very nature of the Church. This is a profound challenge for the Eastern Churches. They must continually strive, notably in the areas of the Diaspora, to preserve their heritage, without adopting any kind of insular attitude. The Church cannot reach out to surrounding culture if she perceives that culture to be a threat. Outreach, evangelization, is not accomplished by turning too far inwards and in isolation. Each Eastern Church, in solidarity and communion, submits itself before mankind freely, openly and joyfully.      

5. It is prudent for us to remember that culture has its own agenda of evangelization.  However, since the Church is situated within a culture that can be opposed to her teaching, the Church must use every means at her disposal to maintain integrity. This is precisely why we should reject the idea that ecclesial structures are totally separate from the Divine Mysteries. Each canonical act, each synodal decision, each pastoral project, is never separated from our identity as the Church at prayer. They are another expression of our being the Church at prayer.

6. Bishops, especially when they reside outside the ‘proper territory’ of their particular Church, must seek to safeguard whatever is required for moderation and balance to prosper. False interpretations of documents, for example, may arise and have to be identified. Valid Eastern traditions deserve respect.  And they deserve to be disseminated. This is a type of evangelization which is sensitive to circumstances of time and of person, and which wants to connect people with their origins. The Eastern Churches can welcome each other with this confidence. Similarly, they may be confident to rely upon the counsel and experience of the Holy See. We at the Congregation for Eastern Churches deem it our privilege always to welcome you, and your issues and interests.

7.  As Prefect of the Eastern Congregation, I am often asked how I perceive the interaction among the various Eastern Churches, and how that interaction is kept intact when our Churches are so often a minority.  Simply stated, my view of the Churches is that they are singly and corporately a ‘gift’.  Every Eastern Church participates equally in this status as gift of God to the universal Church. We have much to offer. As a result, we should never feel intimidated in any location. Our process of interaction is that of the mutual bestowal of gift.  We are not in competition, but in collaboration. Christ did not teach any doctrine which blessed divisiveness. The Sacred Mysteries liturgically enact our appeal to the Trinity to bring about unity.

8. The programme for your Meeting of the Eastern Catholic Churches can be summarized in a word, ‘dialogue’. You will take the fruits of this dialogue with you to your home eparchies, parishes and educational institutions. You will also take a sense that much remains to be done. Therein lies our challenge.  For now we must devise catechesis which will better form our faithful in the basic tenets of our Eastern heritage. And we must endeavour to introduce them in worship to their own personal ‘encounter’ with God-in-Christ. That encounter must shun any tendencies to excessive ethnicity and individualism. For these distort the Gospel. They disfigure the face of Christ. My dear brothers and sisters, may we go forth to evangelize. May we proclaim that the Church is ever “the sacrament of the oneness of the human race and of its union with God” (cf. Lumen Gentium, N.1; Catholic Catechism, N. 2305).

9. In conclusion, I would like to renew my warmest thanks to each and every one of you, dear brother bishops, as well as all who collaborate with you in the pastoral ministry. We know how challenging are the difficulties you have to face every day during the present time. Be sure that the Mother Churches as well as the Petrine See are proud of you, and willing to support you in prayer and every other possible way, in a spirit of affective and effective communion. Thank you.