This anniversary, said the Holy Father, provides an occasion "to examine to what extent the Code has had effective force of law for all 'sui iuris' Eastern Catholic Churches, and how it has been translated into their daily lives". Moreover, it is an opportunity to consider "the extent to which the legislative authority of each 'sui iuris' Church has undertaken to promulgate its own particular law, while bearing in mind the traditions of its own rite and the dispositions of Vatican Council II.
"The themes of your congress (divided into three sections: historical, legislative and ecumenical) are", he added, "an important indication of the course to be followed in this matter".
Benedict XVI then highlighted how "the 'sacri canones' of the ancient Church, which are the inspiration for the current Eastern Code, stimulate all the Eastern Churches to preserve their own identity, which is Oriental and Catholic at one and the same time. In maintaining Catholic communion the Eastern Catholic Churches had no intention of renouncing faithfulness to their own tradition", he said. "As has been noted on several occasions, the union they have already achieved with the Church of Rome must not cause the Eastern Catholic Churches to lose an awareness of their own authenticity and originality. Therefore, the task of all the Eastern Catholic Churches is that of preserving their legal heritage and nourishing their traditions, which are a treasure for the whole Church".
The Holy Father went on: "To a large extent, those same 'sacri canones' of the early centuries of the Church also constitute the fundamental and identical heritage of Canon Law that regulate the Orthodox Churches. Thus, the Eastern Catholic Churches can make a specific and important contribution to the progress of ecumenism".
The Pope concluded his remarks by noting how, "in the context of the Church's current commitment to the new evangelisation, Canon Law, as the specific and indispensable regulation of ecclesial unity, will not fail to make an effective contribution to the life and mission of the Church in the world, if all members of the People of God interpret it wisely and apply it faithfully".
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