30 January 2008

Pope Benedict XVI & Unity

Last Wednesday (23 Jan 08), in a General Audience commemorating the "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity," His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, said the following near the end of his remarks.

In the liturgy of the ancient Church, after the homily the Bishop or the one who presided at the celebration, the principal celebrant, would say: "Conversi ad Dominum". Then he and everyone would rise and turn to the East. They all wanted to look towards Christ. Only if we are converted, only in this conversion to Christ, in this common gaze at Christ, will we be able to find the gift of unity.

HT: Rorate Cæli


Christopher D. Hall said...

Fr. John...we all know he was speaking in code language about your blog...:)

Seriously, those sound like fightin' words for those Bishops who are openly hostile to the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.

Do you think he was using it as a rhetorical device, or was he also implying that liturgy is central to Christian unity, especially with the Orthodox? Or what?

Fr John W Fenton said...

Pr Hall,

Others who are more attuned to the art of politics in the Vatican will be better positioned to answer subtleties in the Pope's words. From my vantage point, it seems that the Holy Father is continuing a earlier theme, which among other things encourages all priests, regardless of Ordo, to celebrate Mass versus populum.

existentialist said...

So, when are we going to have open communion?

Fr John W Fenton said...

Hi Olympiada,

Thanks for reading this blog.

I'm not sure how the Pope's comment leads to "open communion," but I can assure you that neither the Catholic Church nor the Orthodox Church endorses open communion--which, these days, means that anyone (even the unbaptized) may receive communion.

You may be interested to know, however, that the Catholic Church officially admits all Orthodox Christians in good standing to receive communion at Catholic altars. In most cases, the Orthodox do not reciprocate.

existentialist said...

Fr. John, my understanding is that if I, as an Orthodox, receive open communion at a Catholic church, I am toast in the Orthodox church. If I could receive communion in a Catholic church, it would simplify my life 100%. When I say open communion, I mean Orthodox and Catholic receiving communion in each other's churches. I know a Catholic who does receive communion in Greek Orthodox churches, a former priest at that.

Fr John W Fenton said...


While the Catholic Church permits the unquestioned communion of Orthodox Christians, all decisions about the propriety of individual Orthodox Christians receiving communion in a Catholic Church rests in the hands of individual bishops.

Here's an example that may help. I teach theology and German at a Catholic high school, which my children also attend. The Catholic priest has graciously invited us to communion. We don't, however, because our Bishop forbids us. The Catholic priest fully understands. Does that help?

existentialist said...

Yes, and I just received a definitive answer from a matushka, I am most definitely not allowed to receive communion in the Catholic church. Oh well, I will continue to suffer for the sake of my faith. Passion bearers r us. How wonderfully delightful.

Richard said...

Fr. John: versus populum? I'm not sure I follow. I know what it means, I'm just not sure how you're arriving there.

Pr. Hall: I'd guess what you say about liturgy being central to Christian unity is at least part of it.


Fr John W Fenton said...


Oops. Thanks for catching my slip. I did not mean to write versus populum but versus Dominum.

In other words, the Novus Ordo does not require Mass to be said facing the people (versus populum), but does allow Mass to be said facing [liturgical] East (versus Dominum).

Again, thanks for catching my good.

Richard said...

Fr. John: Thank you. That's what I thought you meant, but I wanted to make sure there wasn't some super-fine nuance you were catching that I was going over my head.


Schütz said...

With regard to the politics of the statement, Ratzinger has always been a "versus Dominum" advocate, and loses no opportunity to remind people of it.

As you can see by the context however, he is using it as an image of conversion, not making a point about the liturgy should be celebrated.

But simply by using this particular image, he slips his point in by the back door so to speak. He "gets it out there".

He has been doing similar things with references to the Latin liturgy in support of various Catholic theological points--but somewhat pointedly he has been using the traditional form of liturgy to do so.

A case in point is when, in his book "Jesus of Nazareth", he refers to the embolism in relation to the petition "deliver us from evil". But the form of the embolism he quotes is the tradition, not the novus ordo, form.