Saturday, March 14, 2009

Symposium on the mission of the Greek Catholic Churches
in Central and Eastern Europe
Affirms Need for Modern Witnesses

Symposium Affirms Need for Modern Witnesses

GAMING, Austria, MARCH 12, 2009 ( Participants in a Greek Catholic symposium concluded that the Church cannot rest in the legacy of its martyrs, but needs contemporary witnesses to apply the same faith to today's challenges.

A communiqué from the International Theological Institute in Gaming reported this conclusion from a March 4-6 international symposium on the mission of the Greek Catholic Churches in Central and Eastern Europe.

Participants included 17 bishops -- 15 of them Greek Catholic -- priests, scholars, students and laypeople from 20 countries.

The example of Christians in Communist times was upheld, as a testimony of those who underwent persecution to preserve their mission and Greek Catholic identity.

The communiqué reported, "Despite the tragic 20th-century history of totalitarian repression and centuries of discriminated status of their Churches, the Greek Catholic hierarchs, clergy and scholars from Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, as well as the United States, reaffirmed that their Eastern identity and Catholic communion constitute a rich spiritual treasure -- the very substance of a unique religious experience."

Church identity
It stated that the Greek Catholic Churches "refuse to be categorized in a manner that either lessens their Eastern identity or negates their Catholic communion" and that the participants "renewed their commitment to the arduous task of living in the middle of a divided Christian world, hoping and working for its unity."

The statement asserted, "The urgent and life-giving vocation of the Greek Catholics is to integrate and synthesize the patristic, liturgical, canonical, cultural and mystical tradition of the Christian East with a living witness to the catholicity and universality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, participated in the meeting and expressed the hope that Greek Catholics, as well as Orthodox, "can help people in the West better experience liturgical beauty and holiness, offsetting a flattened sense of the sacred in an increasingly secularized post-Enlightenment world."

In a letter addressed to the symposium, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, major archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, quoted Benedict XVI, stressing that "Greek Catholic Churches are called to be faithful to the Eastern tradition, to witness to it in the Catholic communion, thus being an example to Orthodox Christians of what living communion with the Catholic Church means."

The report noted that the new martyrs of the 20th century, who fought against "the suppression of God-given freedom and human dignity by ideological totalitarianisms," manifest the authentic of the Greek Catholic religious experience. These examples provide hope and "countercultural courage" for Christians facing the challenge of life in "a secularized post-Christian Europe."

The Greek Catholic bishops presented and discussed the challenges of their individual Churches. Symposium participants proposed, in order to meet these challenges, to petition Benedict XVI to devote a papal synod to the topic of Eastern Catholic Churches. As well, they resolved to hold annual conferences like this symposium, noting the desire to discuss the topic of the family and married priesthood in the Greek Catholic Church at a future conference.

Participants concluded that the Greek Catholic Church "should not rest on the spiritual laurels of their martyrs" but rather should "apply themselves with the faith of their fathers and mothers to the challenges of Christian witness and unity in the 21st century."