Friday, May 6, 2011

When Easterners live in Western Territories - Part 3 of 3

Here is Part 3 of 3 from Fr. George Gallaro's discussion of canonical integration of Eastern faithful in Latin dioceses.

Obligations of Latin Diocesan Bishops
Let us examine now can. 383 § 2 of the Latin Code which regards the obligations of the diocesan bishops in assisting the Eastern faithful residing in their dioceses.

Through priests ... of the same rite
The first and simplest way for the pastoral care of the Eastern faithful in the safeguard of their rite is the ministerial service of priests of the same rite as the Christian faithful. As an alternative the bishop can even entrust the pastoral care of these faithful to priests of other ecclesiastical jurisdiction and ritual tradition, provided they are qualified to give such a spiritual assistance. The norms for the pastoral care of the people on the move – Erga migrantes (May 3, 2004) – could also be helpful in this matter.

… Or through parishes of the same rite
A further step along with the designation of priests of the same rite as the faithful is the erection of parishes of that same rite. As mentioned, the Eastern faithful acquire with their domicile or quasi-domicile not only their own hierarch but also their parish priest.

If an eparchy covers a vast territory, it is difficult to establish several parishes. They will necessarily be established in places with greater concentrations of faithful. And in this case the priests will have difficulty in maintaining regular contacts with their faithful. The Eastern Code, in order to assure the pastoral care for all faithful, suggests to the eparchial bishop to designate the pastor of another autonomous Church, with the consent of the eparchial bishop of the pastor to be designated. Should the proper bishop of some faithful be lacking and already been duly entrusted to a bishop of another autonomous Church, even a Latin bishop, he is to take care of these Eastern faithful through priests of their same rite.

... Or through an episcopal vicar
This is the third proposal by the Latin Code which corresponds to the decree Christus Dominus (23,3): “… or through an episcopal vicar endowed with the necessary faculties.” If the groups of Eastern faithful of one or more autonomous Churches residing in a Latin diocese are numerous and well organized, the diocesan bishop is urged to appoint an episcopal vicar for them. Thus the diocesan bishop, through the person of his episcopal vicar, will guide the various groups, study their problems, care for their spiritual needs and coordinate their pastoral activity.

Rights and Duties of a Patriarch and a Major Archbishop

In compliance with the Eastern Code the authority/jurisdiction of a Catholic Patriarch and Major Archbishop is limited to the territory of the respective patriarchal or major archiepiscopal Church. There are however cases in which they can intervene outside their territory for the pastoral good of the faithful of their autonomous Church, including those who live in Latin dioceses.

As for the nomination of a priest, a pastor or an episcopal vicar
In these cases, as mentioned above, one deals with internal norms of the receiving diocese, and therefore the choice of the candidates is exclusively up to the local bishop (CIC cc. 477, 515, 523). A previous consultation with the hierarchy of the autonomous Church of the faithful in question would be commendable, especially in dealing with a patriarchal or major archiepiscopal Church. It also would be highly desirable that the designation of more suitable candidates could come from the patriarch or major archbishop.

The Eastern Code is more demanding in this matter. In fact, its can. 193 § 3 requires that the local diocesan bishop for the faithful of a patriarchal or major archiepiscopal Church acts in agreement with its respective superior authority. However, can. 193 regards only Eastern eparchial bishops. The Papal Commission for the review of the Eastern norms proposed in 1988 to include “also the Latin bishops,” but in 1990 the supreme legislator did not want to bind by this norm the Latin bishops. However, since the more frequent cases regard the Eastern faithful present in Latin dioceses, it could be said that said omission has made useless the content of the norm.

Since one deals here with a norm of papal law, the patriarchs and major archbishops could equally demand the observance of this norm which gives them an important faculty/power. The Latin bishops, on the other hand, could make a stand against this presumed “intrusion” of other hierarchs in the internal affairs of their dioceses, since the norm in question is present only in the Eastern Code. Then what? It is desirable that the good common sense and ecclesial spirit of these hierarchs incite them to willingly cooperate for the well-being of the faithful, to quickly resolve eventual conflicts, and to avoid all opposing trends.

Seeking Information on Eastern Faithful
The Eastern Code foresees another right of the patriarch and major archbishop which could create conflicts with the Latin bishops. “It is the right and the obligation of the patriarch (and major archbishop) to seek appropriate information concerning the Christian faithful who reside outside the territorial boundaries of the Church over which he presides, even through a visitor sent by himself with the assent of the Holy See.” (c. 148).

The patriarchs and major archbishops visiting their faithful are generally well received by the Latin bishops. But how would these Latin bishops react if the said patriarchs or major archbishops were to criticize the way in which the pastoral care is carried on in their dioceses? Once again, the Latin Code does not say much on the matter!


The Christian faithful of the Eastern Churches have the right and duty not only to preserve the traditions of their own Church and to worship God according to the their liturgical customs in their historical territories or in other regions of the world, but also, insofar as possible, when they live under the jurisdiction of bishops of a different autonomous Church.

We have just considered the case of Latin bishops, and seen as they are invited to meet the pastoral care of the Eastern faithful through qualified clergy and convenient facilities in order to preserve their traditions. This is not only a right of the faithful but also a pastoral requirement since their separation from the original milieu could cause doctrinal and moral confusion.

Vatican II and the Latin Code offer to the Catholic bishops some trusty guidelines, while the Eastern Code gives to the patriarchs and major archbishops the faculty to assess the state of their faithful in the so-called diaspora either personally or through appointed visitors. Also the Holy See, through the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, follows these faithful and, when necessary, proposes to the Roman Pontiff the practical norms to solve the various issues.

The Christian faithful of the so-called diaspora are not neglected by their particular Church nor by the Universal Church. The successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, also continues to promote the progress of the faithful custody and diligent observance of all the Eastern Ritual Churches.

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