risu.org.ua - In the Catholic Church, the faithful of the Latin rite as well as the faithful of the Oriental Catholic Churches are always at home wherever they are on the European continent. They are all children of one Church and together they proclaim the joy of the Gospel of Christ. This strong sense of belonging to a single universal Church and sharing the same mission of evangelization accompanied the conclusion of the Meeting of the Bishops of the Oriental Catholic Churches in Europe who gathered in this Year of Mercy in Fatima (October 20-23) along with the representatives of some Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Western countries (France, Germany, Italy, and Portugal) on the theme, The Pastoral Care of the Faithful of the Oriental Catholic Churches in Western European Countries.
After the opening session, which was held in Lisbon and was attended by the local Archbishop-Patriarch, Cardinal Manuel Clemente, the participants started their meeting-pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, which in 2017 will commemorate the centenary of the apparitions.
At Fatima, the fifty-seven bishops participants have begun by analysing in-depth the basic reasons of the migration of many faithful of the Oriental Catholic Churches. Then they focused on the pastoral challenges of integration, both at a social and ecclesial level, and at the end they discussed the theme of dialogue between Churches of different rites within the Catholic Church.
The meeting took place in an atmosphere of cordiality and friendship. The work, which was held in the form of pilgrimage, has been enriched by the visit of the places related to Marian apparitions at Fatima. Prayer and the daily celebration of the Divine Liturgy were made easier by the atmosphere of recollection and prayer at the Shrine of Fatima. After a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Nossa Senhora da Nazaré (Our Lady of Nazareth), in the afternoon of Saturday, October 22, the bishops gathered at the Shrine of Fatima for a prayer to the Mother of God, presided over by Archbishop Cyril Vasil', Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. In the evening, they participated in the traditional Saturday Marian Vigil with the procession of the candles and the recitation of the Holy Rosary.
The meeting also included a presentation by a Vatican journalist of Radio Renaçenza, Ms. Aura Miguel, about the history and meaning of the three parts of the secret related to the Marian apparitions at Fatima, especially in relation to the pontificate of St. John Paul II, the Pope who, especially after the assassination attempt he suffered in 1981, had a very close relationship with the Portuguese shrine.
The meeting, organized by the Council of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) - represented at Fatima by its president, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, was also attended by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches; His Beatitude the Patriarch Gregorios III Laham of Antioch of the Greek-Melkites; the Apostolic Nuncio in Portugal, H. Ex. Mgr. Rino Passigato; and the Archbishop of Braga, H. Ex. Mgr. Jorge Ortiga.
The meeting ended on Sunday, October 23, with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the Holy Trinity Church presided over by His Beatitude Svlatoslav Schevchuk.
The next meeting will take place in autumn 2017 in London (United Kingdom) at the invitation of H. Ex. Mgr. Hlib Lonchyna, Bishop of the Eparchy of the Holy Family of London of the Ukrainians and Apostolic Visitor for the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic faithful in Ireland.
Final Message at the conclusion of the Annual Meeting of the
Oriental Catholic Bishops of Europe
"I was a stranger and you welcomed me" (Mt 25:35)
We, the bishops of the Oriental Catholic Churches in Europe, gathered in Fatima (Portugal) from the 20th to the 23rd of October, 2016 for our annual meeting which also included the participation of representatives of some Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, in communion of prayer and spiritual brotherhood, reflected on the challenges of the pastoral care of the Oriental Catholic faithful who migrate to Western countries and, often, to places where they find themselves without their own pastors.
In our work we have been inspired and guided by the Word of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who has personally experienced the harrowing experience of those forced to leave their own homeland in search of new horizons. As we approach the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy we feel that these words of Jesus spiritually weld the ecclesial communities which are connected to each other by the experience of migration. "I was a stranger" is a word addressed to our faithful, who are often forced to migrate. "You welcomed me" emphasizes the human and Christian attitude of the ecclesial and civil communities that receive them.
Today's migration, then, is an opportunity for the Church, because it opens to the gift of welcoming others, as Pope Francis reminds us. And in this way we put into practice what we believe in, that is, that the Church is not a reality closed in on herself but it is permanently open to missionary and ecumenical endeavour, for She is sent to the world to proclaim and witness, to make relevant and disseminate the mystery of communion which is its very essence: to gather everything and everyone in Christ, and to be for all an "inseparable sacrament of unity" (Communionis notio, 4). In fact, the mobility of our faithful fosters the culture of encounter and testifies a spiritual unity lived in Europe.
First of all, we want to express our gratitude to the local pastors and parish communities of the Latin Church in these Countries for their fatherly care and hospitality of our people, belonging to the Oriental Catholic Churches. We want to thank in a special way for the appreciation of the spiritual life that these faithful have brought in their new residential countries. We are grateful to the local pastors who consider them as operators of the New Evangelization, giving witness to the faith with their Christian life. We also want to thank the Bishops of the Latin Church who appreciate the traditions of the East, to which our faithful belong (cfr. Can. 40 § 1 CCEO). We are grateful for their care in ensuring that our faithful receive a pastoral care according to their rite of belonging, in welcoming the priests who came from the Mother Church to serve our faithful, in creating chaplaincies, and even personal parishes, being aware of our need to have the appropriate ecclesiastical structures for our faithful in the countries where they are living now (cfr. Can. 383 § 2 CIC).
We, Oriental Catholic Bishops of Europe, are aware of our responsibility towards the faithful who are outside the borders of their Mother Church (cfr. Can. 148 § 1 CCEO). We want to support and confirm each of them and their families. We give a particular attention to the families who are divided because of migration, in order to emphasize the beauty of the family and how much it is crucial to humanity. We are close to the most vulnerable and isolated so that they do not become prey to trafficking in human beings. We commit ourselves to promote enthusiastically the transmission of the faith to young people and children, in the certitude that it is an indispensable gift for the fullness of life.
With this message we want to declare our willingness and our desire to cooperate more closely with the Latin pastors to provide a more and more appropriate pastoral care to our faithful who are living in their jurisdiction (Can. 916 § 5 CCEO; Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi, Chap. II, artt. 4-11), as well as to promote the formation and awareness of the Latin clergy vis-à-vis the Oriental traditions, to more adequately train our own priests who have been sent to take upon themselves the pastoral care of our faithful. It is also desirable that the most appropriate ways be found in view of a greater sharing of pastoral structures and activities.
We also want to state that our commitment and pastoral care of the faithful is based on the principle of integration, not assimilation. We deem it very important that our faithful, organized in their pastoral centres, are well integrated into the local Church of the host country, because we are certain that the Oriental Christian traditions are a gift for the Latin communities too. Only by integrating in the local Church - without being assimilated and without remaining isolated – it will be possible to share the heritage of our traditions and witness together that the Catholic Church is "the unity of faith in the diversity of traditions."
However, even the Oriental traditions have to face the great challenge of secularism, which wants to pervert our Christian life. Therefore, the effort to incarnate the Gospel in the culture of our peoples, who are often prisoners of the present, will help us to make more vivid the perception of being part of a history that precedes and follows us (cfr. St. John Paul II, Orientale lumen 8).
In this historical moment we are close to those severely suffering because of violence and war that continues to affect many peoples, in particular in Ukraine and in the Middle East. Our Holy Father Francis teaches us that the words of peace are forgiveness, dialogue, and reconciliation, because without a conversion of the heart there is no peace. So we want to be agents of reconciliation and peace, and strive to rebuild harmony where it is broken. Following the heroic example of the shepherd children of Fatima, we want to continue to pray and do penance to invoke from Christ the gift of his peace, tirelessly, hoping for a peace not separate from the demands of justice, and fuelled by sacrifice, love, and mercy .
To Mary, Mother of God and of men, who appeared here in Fatima a hundred years ago, we entrust our Churches, the families, the youth, the sick, the elderly, the unemployed, and the suffering, because she, as a very tender Mother, knows every suffering, every pain, every deprivation, and she embraces all with love.
"Let everyone get closer to the time of peace and freedom, the time of truth, justice, and hope" (cfr. Act of Entrustment to Our Lady of Fatima).
Fatima, October 23, 2016