11/12/2021, 12.09
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Holy Land, Ecumenism: 'Reception' of the sacraments, while respecting doctrine

Guidelines for ecumenical pastoral care published by the Latin Patriarchate. Catholic priests will be able to give the sacraments of confession, the Eucharist and the anointing of the sick to the faithful of the Orthodox Churches, provided they ask for it on their own initiative; Catholics will also be able to receive the same sacraments from a minister of the Orthodox Church. Patriarch Pizzaballa: the goal is to "give some order" to this experience, for a need that "comes from the ground, from every day life".

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - For generations the Holy Land has been emerging as a laboratory of ecumenism, the growing interaction between the different Churches and the faithful "is not new" and through a document "we wanted to give some order to this experience," The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa told AsiaNews.

He was commenting on the recent publication of the "Guidelines for the Ecumenical Pastoral Care of the Catholic Churches in the Holy Land" approved on October 5 by the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries (Aocts). The text reflects what has been occurring for some time now in every day life, with increasing interaction between Christians of different rites and traditions and the implications that this entails in terms of doctrine and practice of the faith.

"The Holy Land is a laboratory, a thermometer - adds the patriarch - but it is also true for the West, beacuse of the growing phenomenon of immigration." 

"The important thing is to emphasize that these are pastoral directives that do not touch doctrine, while not ignoring it," noting that by now several families "are mixed" and practical answers must be provided to this reality. "The relationship between the Churches," he added, "is not doctrine, but an urgent need of the families themselves" who do not need indissoluble "principles" as much as concrete "indications.

The document will come into force next November 28 and will be applied in all the Catholic Churches of the Holy Land (Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Cyprus), under the guidance of bishops, priests, religious and faithful of Arabic, Jewish and other languages in teh migrant communities. It will involve communities linked to the Latin Patriarchate, the Greek-Melkite, Maronite, Syrian Catholic, Armenian and Chaldean Churches. The text urges the faithful to prioritize the practice of faith and the sacraments "in their own Church," to avoid gestures that could appear to proselytize, and to be open to other confessions. 

The approach is in line with the "synodal path" outlined Oct. 30 by the Church of the Holy Land in the broader program of the general synod desired by Pope Francis around three key words: communion, participation and mission. The recommendations focus on sharing sacramental life with baptized people of other Christian denominations and liturgical celebrations, while ecumenical formation, schools, youth and charity will be addressed at a later date.

Catholic priests will be able to impart the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist - there is talk of "Eucharistic hospitality" to non-Catholics - and the anointing of the sick for the faithful of the Orthodox Churches, provided they ask for it on their own initiative; they will have to respect the discipline through which they are administered. Catholics will also be able to receive the same sacraments from a minister of the Orthodox Church, with which there are greater affinities. 

For Church experts, the document represents an important step in ecumenism and relations between confessions, although the Patriarch wishes to clarify that "it does not innovate in anything, but simply wanted to define the reality that we live every day. And, he continues, to give priests and parish priests guidelines to deal with "the most complex situations" without running the risk of "oversimplifying" or "proselytizing" in a framework of "good relations" between Churches. 

These relations would seem more aligned with the Orthodox "with whom we share the discipline of the sacraments and the priesthood," while greater obstacles remain with the Evangelical and Anglican world. The guidelines are a response to "a need, a cry that comes from below, to make ecumenical dialogue more concrete. The need to be together is not a matter between theologians", but an aspect of Christian unity and a strong point "to relate with Islam and Judaism". After the darkness, the silence and the distance linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, the patriarch concludes, the Church "lives a new phase, we started the synod with enthusiasm, there is a desire to meet and celebrate".

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