ON THE OBSERVANCE OF ORIENTAL RITES
Encyclical of Pope Benedict XIV promulgated on July 26, 1755.
To Missionaries Assigned to the Orient.
Beloved Sons, We give You Greeting and Our Apostolic Blessing.
There has been brought to the Cardinals, who are in charge of the Propagation of the Faith, the letter of a certain priest who was assigned to conduct holy missions in the city of Balsera. This city, commonly called Bassora, is about fifteen days’ journey from Babylon, a city well-known for the dealings of merchants. In his letter, he informed the Cardinals that many Catholics of the Oriental rite, Armenians or Syrians, live in that city. Because they have no temple of their own, they come to the church of the Latin missionaries where their priests offer masses and perform other sacred ceremonies in accordance with their own rite. But lay people attend these ceremonies and receive the sacraments from the priests. So he inquired whether these Armenians and Syrians should observe their own Catholic rite or whether, to avoid different practices in a church which Latins also attend, it would be more appropriate that the Armenians and Syrians should abandon their ancient calendar and accept the new one to establish the dates of Easter and movable feastdays. He further inquired whether if the observance of the new calendar were decreed for the Armenians and Syrians of Balsera, it should also be imposed on other orientals who, because their own church is small, generally come to the church of the Latins for their sacred functions.
Abstinence from Fish
- Furthermore, this missionary also reported that although abstinence from fish is prescribed on fast days for Armenians and Syrian Catholics, many of them do not observe this regulation. This is not from any contempt, but in part from natural weakness and in part from seeing that Latin Catholics have a different custom. Accordingly, he suggested that it would be appropriate to give missionaries the power of allowing particular individuals to eat fish in a season of fasting, provided that this gives rise to no scandal and that they are obliged to perform some other work of piety in place of abstaining from fish.
Decree Forbidding Dispensations
- These questions were, as We have said, submitted by this missionary to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. As is customary, it sent them to the Congregation of General Inquisition. This Congregation met in Our presence on March 13. The Cardinals Inquisitor unanimously answered that “no innovations were to be made.” We confirmed this decision in conformity with a former decree of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith published on January 31, 1702; it has subsequently been renewed and confirmed several times. That decree reads as follows: “At the instance of its Secretary, R.P.D. Carolus Augustinus Fabronus, the Sacred Congregation has commanded that it be ordered, and by the present decree it is so ordered, that each and every missionary and prefect of Apostolic missions should not dare in future, in any circumstance or under any pretext, to give a dispensation to Catholics of any oriental nation in matters of fasts, prayers, ceremonies, and suchlike from the prescriptions of their own national rite which are approved by the Holy and Apostolic See. Moreover, the Sacred Congregation has decided that it neither has been nor is permitted for those Catholics to abandon in any respect the custom and observance of their own rite which has likewise been approved by the Holy Roman Church. The complete and straightforward observance of this decree, renewed and confirmed by each and every prefect and missionary, has been commanded by these most eminent fathers.” This decree, indeed, applies to Catholics of the Oriental Church and to their rites which have been approved by the Apostolic See. As everyone knows, the Oriental Church is composed of four rites-Greek, Armenian, Syriac, and Coptic; all these rites are referred to by the single name of the Greek or Oriental Church, just as the name of the Latin or Roman Church signifies the Roman, Ambrosian, and Mozarabic rites, as well as the special rites of different Regular Orders.
- The meaning of the decree is too clear to require any commentary. So the purpose of this encyclical letter is to ensure that this law is known and understood by everyone and is thereupon carried out with care. For it can be justly suspected that the missionary of Balsera submitted his questions with no knowledge of the decrees which had already been issued. We gather from many other indications that Latin missionaries devote thought and care to destroying or at least weakening the Oriental rite in the course of converting Orientals from the error of schism to the unity of the Holy Catholic Religion; they induce Oriental Catholics to embrace the Latin rite with the sole motivation of zealously spreading religion and performing a good work pleasing to God. We have thought it fitting for this reason (since We have set Our mind on writing) to treat as briefly as possible in this encyclical letter the proper procedure in all cases when Orientals are converted to the Catholic Religion. This procedure is to be observed in the case of Oriental Catholics who live both in places where there are no Latins and where Latin Catholics dwell together with Oriental Catholics.
Oriental Church United With Roman Church
- Certainly, that man would have to be declared utterly inexperienced in ecclesiastical history who did not know of the mighty efforts of the Roman Pontiffs to bring the Orientals into unity since the fatal schism of Photius; he laid hold of the See of Constantinople when the lawful Patriarch St. Ignatius was forcefully ejected in the time of Pope St. Nicholas I. Our Predecessor St. Leo IX sent his legates to Constantinople to put an end to this schism, which, after almost two centuries’ respite, had been renewed by Michael Cerularius; but their efforts came to nothing. Subsequently Urban II summoned the Greeks to the council of Bari. They accomplished very little though, even though St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, was fully engaged in working for unity between them and the Roman Church and in revealing to them the errors of their ways by the light of his teaching. At the Council of Lyons which Blessed Gregory X convened, the emperor Michael Palaeologus and the Greek bishops accepted unity with the Roman Church, but then changed their minds and abandoned it again. The Council of Florence, in the pontificate of Eugenius IV, which was attended by John Palaeologus and Joseph, Patriarch of Constantinople, together with the other Oriental bishops, decreed union; everyone present accepted it. At the same Council the churches of the Armenians and the Jacobites returned to obedience to the Apostolic See. When Pope Eugenius left Florence for Rome, he received an embassy from the king of the Ethiopians and restored the Syrians, Chaldaeans, and Maronites to obedience to the Roman See. But as it is written in St. Matthew’s Gospel, chap. 13, the seed which fell on a rock produced no fruit since it had no place to put down roots: “These are those who at once receive the word of God with joy but do not have roots in themselves; when tribulation and persecution come on account of the word, they stumble at once.” Thus, scarcely had Mark, Archbishop of Ephesus, like a new Photius, tried to destroy the union by raising his voice against it, than all the desired fruit immediately vanished.
- That man too would betray his ignorance of ecclesiastical history who did not know that the union with the Orientals confirmed that they would accept the dogma of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, and add to the Creed the word Filioque (“and from the Son”); that they would admit that both leavened and unleavened bread was matter for the Sacrament of the Eucharist; that they would accept the dogma of purgatory, of the beatific vision and of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff; in a word, that every care was taken to overthrow all errors opposed to the Catholic faith. But there was never any question of causing harm to the venerable Oriental rite. That man would be utterly ignorant also of the present discipline of the Church who had not discovered that the Roman Pontiffs, undeterred by past fruitless attempts, have always intended to restore the Greeks to union and have always followed and still follow the path We have explained just above. This can be clearly gathered both from their words and from their deeds.
Leo IX Supported Greek
Church in 11th Century
- In the eleventh century, several Latin churches observing the Latin rite thrived in Constantinople, Alexandria, and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem; just as in Rome, Greek churches performed sacred ceremonies in the Greek rite. Michael Cerularius, the impious restorer of the schism, commanded the closing of the Latin Churches. St. Leo IX, however, did not respond in kind although he could readily have done so; rather than closing the Greek churches in Rome, he desired them to remain open. And so when he complained of the insult done to the Latins, he added: “See how much more restrained, moderate, and kindly towards you the Roman church is here! Although there are many Greek monasteries or churches, both inside and outside Rome, none of these has yet been disturbed or forbidden to follow the tradition of its fathers or its own custom; rather all of them are advised and urged to observe it.” (I Ep 9)
Thirteenth Century Support for Greek Churches
- At the start of the thirteenth century the Latins gained control of Constantinople. Innocent III then decided to establish a Latin Patriarch in that city with jurisdiction over Greeks as well as Latins; but he still was careful to state openly that he did not want any harm done to the Greek rites, excepting only those traditional customs which endangered souls or were at variance with the honor of the Church. The decretal of this pope, issued at the Fourth Lateran Council, is to be found both in Harduin’s Collectionis Conciliorum, vol. I, p. 22, and in the chapter Licet, de Baptismo. “Although the Greeks have returned to obedience to the Apostolic See in Our day, We desire them as greatly as We can in the Lord to cherish and hold in honor their custom and rites, except for those customs which give rise to danger for souls and detract from the honor of the Church, for in these cases We neither should nor do We want to respect them.” Later Honorius III, the immediate successor of Innocent, used the same words in a letter to the king of Cyprus who wanted two bishops in some cities in his kingdom, a Latin bishop for the Latin inhabitants and a Greek bishop for the Greeks living in the same district. This letter of Honorius is printed in the Annals of Raynaldus, 1222, a. 5.
- There are many documents of this kind from the thirteenth century. For instance the letter of Innocent IV to Daniel, King of Russia, praises the particular devotion of the king to the Catholic Church and allows to be preserved in his kingdom rites which are not at variance with the faith of the Catholic Church. He writes: “Therefore, dearest son in Christ, We are moved by your prayer and grant by the authority of this letter to the bishops and other priests of Russia permission to consecrate leavened bread in accordance with their custom and to observe their other rites which are not opposed to the Catholic faith held by the Church of Rome.” (Raynaldus, 1247, no. 29.) Such is the tenor, too, of the same Pope’s letter to Cardinal Otho of Tusculum, Legate of the Holy See on the Island of
Cyprus, whom he had entrusted with the authority to settle some disputes which had arisen between Greeks and Latins: “But since some of the Greeks are at last returning to their devotion to the Apostolic See, and obey it with reverence and respect, We may and should tolerate and preserve their customs and rites as far as God and their obedience to the Roman Church permits. However, We ought not-nor do We wish to-yield to them in the slightest matter which could produce danger for souls or lessen the honor of the Church” (in veteri Bullario, vol. 1, no. 14, constitution Sub Catholicae). But in the same letter after he laid down what the Greeks had to do, he listed the practices which he thought they should be allowed to observe and ends with the following words: “But on Our authority, order the aforesaid Archbishop of Nicosia together with his Latin suffragans not to disturb or harass the Greeks contrary to Our decision in these matters.” The same Pope Innocent IV appointed his confessor Laurentius Minorita as Apostolic Legate and gave him full authority over all the Greeks who lived in the kingdom of Cyprus and the patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem, as well as over the Jacobites, Maronites and Nestorians. He commanded him especially to protect by his authority all the Greeks from harassment from the Latins: “As regards the Greeks of those regions, whatever their affiliation, We command you to protect them by apostolic authority, and to prevent their being disturbed by acts of violence or any harassment by fully correcting all wrongs and offenses done by Latins and by strictly commanding the Latins to give up such acts for the future” (Raynaldus, 1546, no. 30).
- Alexander IV, the immediate successor of Pope Innocent, observed that the desire of his predecessor had not been achieved and that disorderly dissensions between Greek and Latin bishops continued to break out in the kingdom of Cyprus. Accordingly he commanded the Latin bishops to summon Greek clerics to their synods. But when he declared that they were subject to the decrees of the synods, he added the following condition: “(that they are) to accept and observe the statutes of the Synods, provided that these statutes do not conflict with the Greek rites which are not opposed to the Catholic faith and are tolerated by the Church of Rome.” Elias, Archbishop of Nicosia, followed this praiseworthy precedent in 1340 when he included this declaration in the decrees of his synod: “We do not purpose by this decree to prevent Greek bishops and their subjects from observing their own rites which are consonant with the Catholic faith, in accordance with the arrangement proposed by Pope Alexander, and accepted by both Greeks and Latins in the kingdom of Cyprus” (Labbe, Collectione, vol. 14, p. 279, and vol. 15, p. 775, Venice edition).
- The end of the thirteenth century is marked by the Union of Greeks and Latins decreed at the General Council of Lyons in the pontificate of Blessed Gregory X. Gregory sent to Michael Palaeologus the confession of faith and the decree of union confirmed by the Council which the eastern legates had sworn to, in order that the emperor himself and the other Greek bishops should accept them. The emperor and the Orientals performed all that was required, but they added the condition: “But we ask of Your Greatness etc. to be allowed to preserve the rites which we used before the schism since these rites are not opposed to the Faith or to the divine commandments” (Harduin, Collectionis, vol. 8, p. 698). Although the reply of Pope Gregory to this letter of the Orientals has not survived, it may rightly be taken that he approved this condition since he believed that they had firmly accepted the union. And of course Nicholas III, the successor of Gregory, through the legates he sent to Constantinople, revealed his mind in the following words: “As to the other Greek rites, however, the Roman Church gladly proposes that the Greeks observe them to the full extent that God allows and permits them to continue in those rites which in the decision of the Apostolic See do not injure the integrity of the Catholic faith or detract from the holy decrees of the Canons” (Raynaldus, 1278).
- For the fifteenth century, we will mention only the union decreed at the council of Florence. Pope Eugenius approved it and John Palaeologus accepted it with the proviso “that no changes should be made in the Rites of our Church” (Harduin, Collectionis, vol. 9, p. 345). But since We do not intend to review in particular detail the actions of the Roman pontiffs in subsequent centuries, We shall touch on several main incidents which suggest clearly that while they
tried zealously to correct the misconceptions of the Orientals, at the same time they indicated that they desired to preserve entire those rites used before the schism with the approval of the Apostolic See. They never demanded that Orientals who wished to be Catholic should embrace the Latin Rite.
- The Greek Manual, published at Benevento, contains two Constitutions of Popes Leo X and Clement VII which vigorously criticize Latins who abuse the Greeks for practices which the Council of Florence permitted them: in particular that they may offer the Sacrifice of the Mass with leavened bread, that they may take a wife before receiving Holy Orders and keep their wife after Ordination, and that they may offer the Eucharist under both species even to children. When Pius IV decreed that Greeks living in the Dioceses of Latins should be subject to the Latin bishops, he added that “by this decree, however, We do not purpose that the Greeks themselves should be drawn away from their Greek rite, or that they should be hindered in any way in other places by the local Ordinaries or others” (veteris Bullarii, vol. 2, const. no. 75, Romanus Pontifex).
- The annals of Gregory XIII, written by Fr. Maffei and printed at Rome in 1742, relate several deeds of this pope which aimed at restoring the Copts and Armenians to the Catholic faith, though quite unsuccessfully. But of especial interest are his words concerning the foundation of three colleges in Rome which he had established for the education of Greek, Maronite, and Armenian students, in which he provided that they should continue in their oriental rites (in novo Bullario, vol. 4, pt. 3, const. 63, and pt. 4, const. 157 and 173).
A solemn union of the Ruthenians with the Apostolic See was enacted in the time of Pope Clement VIII. The decree prepared by the Ruthenian archbishops and bishops for establishing union contains the following condition: “However, the ceremonies and rites of the divine liturgy and holy sacraments shall be preserved and fully observed in accordance with the custom of the oriental church; only those points shall be corrected which are a hindrance to union; everything shall be done in the ancient manner as they were long ago when the union was in existence.
Shortly afterwards a disturbance was caused by a widespread rumor that the union had put an end to all the old rites which the Ruthenians followed in the divine psalmody, the sacrifice of the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, and other holy ceremonies. Paul V in an apostolic brief written in 1615 and printed in the Greek Manual, solemnly declared his will in the following words: “Provided that they are not opposed to truth and the teaching of the Catholic faith, and they do not prevent communion with the Roman church, it was not and it is not the intention, understanding, or will of the Roman church to remove or destroy them by means of this union; and this could not and cannot be said or thought; instead these rites have been allowed and granted to the Ruthenian bishops and clergy by Apostolic kindness.”
- It is proper here to remember the churches which in later times different popes entrusted to Greeks, Maronites, Armenians, Copts, and Melchites in Rome. These still exist, with each group performing the holy ceremonies in accordance with its own rite. It can also be recalled that Clement VIII (in his constitution 34, sect. 7 of Veteris Bullarii) established a Greek bishop in Rome to ordain, according to the Greek rite, Italo-Greeks who lived in Latin dioceses. Another Greek bishop was established in the Diocese of Bisiniana by Our immediate predecessor Clement XII, and his constitution Pastoralis, to ordain Italo-Greeks and spare those who lived far from Rome the long journey to obtain ordination at the hands of the Greek Bishop of Rome. Catholic bishops of the Maronites, Copts, and Melchites who from time to time live in Rome are not denied the faculty of ordaining men of their own nation according to their own rite, provided suitable candidates are found. Whenever a dispute arises about the practice of the Orientals or the Italo-Greeks, the Apostolic See makes every effort to ensure that they correct what clearly needs correction, but states at once that it desires the Oriental rite to remain untouched and unshaken in all other respects. It also proclaims that laws affecting Italo-Greeks who live among us and are subject to the jurisdiction of Latin bishops should be understood to affect only these and should not in any way be extended to the Oriental Greeks who live far from us and are subject to their own Greek Catholic bishops.
- This is learned from the confirmation of the provincial synod of the Ruthenians which met at Zamoscia in 1720. At that time Benedict XIII appointed Us to examine this matter as secretary of the Congregation of the Council. He thought the suggestions of the fathers of this synod should be approved, although they restrained or removed by their decrees some Greek rites which were in practice. He confirmed the synod in his apostolic brief in 1724, but added the following statement: “However Our confirmation of this synod should not be thought to derogate in the least from the constitutions of the popes who preceded Us or from the decrees of the General Councils on the subject of Greek Rites. Notwithstanding this confirmation, these rites should always remain strong.”
The same message is gathered from many of Our own constitutions which can be found in Our Bullarium under the general headings of the rites of the Copts, Melchites, Maronites, Ruthenians, and Italo-Greeks and also specifically on the rites of the clergy of the collegiate church of Messana called St. Mary’s de Grafeo, and finally on the Greek rite observed in the Order of St. Basil. In constitution 87 (Bullarii, vol. 1) on the rites of the Greek Melchites the following passage occurs: “So on the rites and customs of the Greek Church We have decided to command firstly and in general that no one has been or is permitted on any pretext or authority or rank even of a patriarch or a bishop to make any changes or introduce anything to detract from their full precise observance.”
In the earlier constitution 57, Etsi Pastoralis, sect. 9, no. 1, the following measures are taken in regard to Italo-Greeks: “Since the rites of the Oriental Church, which derive mainly from the holy Fathers and tradition, have so impressed themselves on the minds of the Greeks and of other men, the Roman pontiffs, Our predecessors, have wisely preferred to approve and allow these rites, in so far as they are not at variance with the Catholic faith, dangerous to souls, or disreputable for the Church, rather than to reduce them to the form of the Roman ceremonies etc.” And sect. 9, no. 24: “Furthermore everything which We have earlier granted, commanded, or forbidden to Italo-Greeks is not intended to prejudice any rights of the Oriental Greeks under their own Catholic bishops, archbishops, or patriarchs, or any of the rites of other Christian peoples which have been approved or allowed by the Holy See. These include all rights whether of law or custom or other legal grounds either from apostolic constitutions or the decrees passed by General or Special Councils or of the Congregations of the Cardinals on the subject of the rites of the Greeks or other Orientals.”
Profession of Faith by Orientals
- Passing by these questions, We will declare freely that the Roman pontiffs have carefully and tirelessly attempted to overcome the heresies which gave rise to the schism between the western and the eastern church, and that consequently they have commanded orientals who want to return to the unity of the Church to reject these errors, to find out if they really belong in union with the Apostolic See.
There are two forms of this profession of faith. The first was prescribed for Greeks by Pope Gregory XIII (veteris Bullarii, vol. 2, 33) while the second was demanded of Orientals by Pope Urban VIII. Both were published at the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, the first in 1623 and the second in 1642. Subsequently, in 1665, the Patriarch of Antioch, Syriacus of Hierapolis, and the Archbishop of the Syrians in Hierapolis sent their profession of faith to Rome. Father Lorenzo de Lauraea of the Order of Conventuals Minor of St. Francis, then a consultor of the holy office and later a Cardinal, was asked to examine the question and on April 28th he produced his written verdict. It was subsequently approved by the Congregation, which concludes as follows: “All should be received, but those whom it concerns should be informed that they should not hereafter use a profession of faith different from that prescribed for Orientals by Urban VIII of happy memory, since this profession contains a rejection of many heresies and other matters needful for those districts.”
Correction of the Greek Euchologion
- Since the enemy, in order to sow weeds among the wheat, has driven some men so deeply into wickedness that they have inserted errors in Missals, Breviaries, and Rituals to mislead the clergy, the popes with timely wisdom have had new editions of the missals of the Copts, Maronites, Illyrians, etc., published by the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith after a careful examination of each of them. And We must mention the care which was devoted to the correction of the Greek Euchologion published in recent months by the press of the same Congregation.
The examination of this work was begun zealously under Pope Urban VIII, but it was interrupted after a short time. It was taken up again under Clement XII, but God reserved for Us the joy of beholding the completion of this very important work. During Our pontificate Cardinals, Prelates, theologians, and men trained in the languages of the east devoted long hours to work and discussion. We Ourselves read the discussions and weighed every matter which called for examination.
The work was revised scrupulously to avoid the slightest injury to the Greek rite and to ensure that this rite remained unimpaired and entire. This course was followed, even though previously, in their utter ignorance of the Oriental liturgies and rites which existed in the eastern church before the time of the schism, some of our theologians whose expert knowledge was confined to the western rite, used to condemn every detail which differed from this rite. In short, the chief concern of the popes in securing the return of Greeks and Oriental schismatics to the Catholic religion has ever been to pluck completely from their minds the errors of Arius, Macedonius, Nestorius, Eutyches, Dioscuros, the Monothelites, and others, into which they had wretchedly fallen. But the rites which they observed and professed before the schism and the practice which depends on these ancient liturgies and rituals have always been left unchanged. Indeed the popes have never asked those returning to the Catholic faith to give up their own rite and assume the Latin rite. For this would involve the complete extermination of the eastern church and of the Greek and other Eastern rites, an objective which this Holy See has certainly never planned or striven for.
- Many inferences can be made from Our present exposition. First, the missionary who is attempting with God’s help to bring back Greek and eastern schismatics to unity should devote all his effort to the single objective of delivering them from doctrines at variance with the Catholic faith. Their forefathers accepted these errors as some sort of pretext for leaving the unity of the Church and for refusing the pope the respect and obedience which is his due as head of the Church.
A missionary should make use of the following proofs. Since the Orientals are greatly devoted to their own Church Fathers, Leo Allatius and other notable theologians have studied the question carefully and have shown clearly that the more notable Fathers of the Greek and Latin Church fully agree on all points of doctrine; they specifically reject the errors which fetter the east now. Consequently the study of those books will be beneficial.
In the last century the Lutherans tried to draw Greeks and Orientals into their own errors. The Calvinists, who bitterly attack the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the transubstantiation of bread and wine into His Body and Blood, made the same attempt; it is reported that they won over the Patriarch Cyril to their view. However the Greeks, schismatic as they are, realized that the new errors were at variance with the teaching of their Fathers, especially SS. Cyril, John Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Damascene; with firm proofs drawn from their own liturgies which affirm the Real Presence and Transubstantiation, they rejected the deceptions and refused to abandon any aspect of the Catholic truth (see Schelestratus De perpetua consensione Orientalis Ecclesiae contra Lutheranos, the chapter De transubstantiatione, p. 717, vol. 2, of Actorum Ecclesiae Orientalis). In two synods they unanimously condemned Patriarch Cyril and the Calvinist doctrines published under his name (see Christian Lupus, ad Concilia Generalia, et Provincialia, part 5, and particularly his treatise De quibusdam locis, chap. 9, at end).
In the first place this gives substantial hope that when they are confronted with the teaching of the Fathers, which strongly supports our Catholic doctrine and attacks their own more recent errors, they will be inspired to a genuine conversion and find it very easy to return. Secondly, it can be seen that there is no need to harm or destroy their rites in recalling them to the way of unity since the Apostolic See has always opposed this procedure. This See has been able to separate the weeds from the wheat in these holy rites as often as the need arose. Moreover the attempt to destroy their rites will only jeopardize the desired union, as Thomas of Jesus rightly reflects: “It must also be shown that the Roman church approves and favors each Church maintaining its own rites and ceremonies, since of course the schismatics are very attached to their own rites. A timely effort must be made to persuade them that they will be confirmed in the observance of their own ceremonies in order to prevent any false suspicion developing that these rites would be abolished and any consequent turning away from the Roman church, which has no such objective” (De conversione omnium gentium procuranda, bk. 7, chap. 2).
Thirdly and finally, from what has already been said it can be inferred that a missionary who wants to convert an eastern schismatic should not attempt to make him accept the Latin rite. For the only work entrusted to the missionary is that of recalling the Oriental to the Catholic faith, not that of making him accept the Latin rite.
Transferring from Latin to Greek Rite Forbidden
- When Union was effected at the Council of Florence, some Latin Catholics living in Greece thought that it was lawful for them to go over to the Greek rite. They may have been attracted by the freedom retained by the Greeks for priests to keep wives after Ordination if they were married before being ordained. But Pope Nicholas V carefully applied a timely remedy to this abuse: “It has come to Our attention that many Catholics in districts with a Greek Catholic bishop are shamelessly going over to the Greek rites under pretext of the Union. We are greatly astonished, since We do not know what inspired them to leave the practice and rites in which they were born and reared for foreign rites. Even though the rites of the oriental church are praiseworthy, it is not permitted to confuse the rites of the churches. The holy council of Florence never allowed this” (constitution in Bullarii recenter Romae editi, vol. 3, part 3, p. 64).
Since the Latin rite is the rite of the holy Roman church and this church is mother and teacher of the other churches, the Latin rite should be preferred to all other rites. It follows that it is not lawful to transfer from the Latin to the Greek rite. Nor may those who have come over to the Latin rite from the Greek or Oriental rite return again to the Greek Rite, unless particular circumstances occasion the giving of a dispensation (constitution Etsi Pastoralis 57, sect. 2, no. 13, in Our Bullarii, vol. 1). Such dispensations have sometimes been given in times past, and are still given in the Roman College of the Maronites. When a priest there enters the Society of Jesus, he is given a dispensation to transfer to the Latin rite, and sometimes he receives an additional dispensation to say Mass and perform his Divine Office in the church of this College in the Syrian and Chaldaean rite in order to teach this rite to the students there. This is quite clear from many Decrees of the Congregation of the Holy Office, e.g. the Decrees of December 30, 1716; December 14, 1740; and the more recent Decree of August 19, 1752.
Transferring from Greek to Latin Rite
- We have dealt with transferring from the Latin to the Greek rite. Transferrals in the opposite direction are not forbidden as strictly as the former. Still, a missionary who hopes for the return of a Greek or Oriental to the unity of the Catholic Church may not make him give up his own rite. This can cause great harm.
Melchite Catholics used to transfer willingly from the Greek to the Latin rite, but they have been forbidden to do so. Missionaries have been warned not to urge them to transfer. Permission to do so has been reserved to the private decision of the Apostolic See. This is clear from Our constitution Demandatam, 85, sect. 35 (Bullarium, vol. 1): “Moreover We expressly forbid henceforth all Melchite Catholics who observe the Greek rite to transfer to the Latin rite. We give strict orders to all missionaries not to encourage anyone rashly to transfer to the Latin from the Greek rite, nor even to allow them to do so if they want to without the permission of the Apostolic See, under the penalties which will be set out below and other penalties to be decided on by Us.”
The same teaching is conveyed in the Decrees of Urban VIII in reference to the GrecoRuthenian rite, issued at the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in his presence on February 7 and July 6, 1624. While it might seem fair to allow Italo-Greeks to transfer freely from the Greek to the Latin rite, since they live among us and are subject to a Latin bishop, it has nevertheless been laid down that the consent of the Apostolic See is necessary in the case of the transference of secular or regular clergy. If lay people want to transfer, the permission of their bishop is sufficient. He may give this permission with restraint to certain specified individuals, but never to a whole group. In the latter case the consent of the Apostolic See is required (see constitution Etsi Pastoralis 17, sect. 2, no. 14, Bullarium, vol. 1).
- It is not difficult to respond to the claim that Orientals and other Greeks who reject their heresy and return to unity can be lawfully exhorted to abandon their own rite and accept the Latin rite on the grounds that approval has been given in the past and still continues for Orientals and Greeks to practice individual Latin rites.
First Category-Some Greeks Insist that Latins Follow Their Rites
There are two classes, as it were, of Greeks and Orientals. The first class consists of men who are not satisfied with the concessions made to them by the Apostolic See in order to preserve the Union. They are carried shamelessly beyond the bounds of decency; they claim that all their own practices are correct and that the Latins are mistaken not to follow the same practices.
Take the example of unleavened bread. Greeks and Orientals must admit as Catholics that unleavened as well as leavened bread is suitable matter for the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and that each person should follow the rite of his own church. Consequently any condemnation of the rite of the Latin church which uses unleavened bread in consecrating the Eucharist falls into error.
The monk Hilarion, in his Dialectical Oration, says: “I have written this to you, beloved Greeks, without attacking your bread, which I respect and reverence as much as I do our own unleavened bread. But I have explained that your conduct is neither correct nor Christian when you insult and injure in word and deed the unleavened bread of the Latins. In both cases, as has been said, Christ is truly present” (Latin translation of the Greek by Leo Allatius in Graeciae Orthodoxae, vol. 1, p. 762, 1652).
Another example is the freedom enjoyed by priests of the Oriental and Greek church to remain married to their wives after their ordination (see can. Aliter, dist. 31 and chap. Cum olim, de Clericis Conjugatis). Considering that this practice was at variance neither with divine nor natural law, but only with Church discipline, the popes judged it right to tolerate this custom, which flourished among Greeks and Orientals, rather than to forbid it by their apostolic authority, to avoid giving them a pretext to abandon unity. So does Arcudius assess the matter (Concordia bk. 7, chap. 33).
Nevertheless, incredible though it sounds, some Greeks and Orientals still accuse the Latin church of rejecting marriage simply because it requires celibacy of its subdeacons, deacons, and priests in imitation of the Apostles (see Hincmar of Rheims, Operum, vol. 2, letter 51).
Confirmation Following Baptism
A third and final example is provided by some of the Copts, whose rite prescribes that Confirmation should be conferred immediately after Baptism. The western church does not observe this practice, but generally requires that candidates for Confirmation be old enough to be able to distinguish between good and evil. The Roman Church does not oppose the ancient practice of the Copts. However-again this is incredible-some of them reject Baptism conferred by Latins because the Sacrament of Confirmation was not conferred after this Baptism.
For this reason they are rightly convicted and condemned in Our constitution 129 (Eo quamvis tempore in Our Bullarium vol. 1): “Just as it befits the gentleness and patience of the Apostolic See to allow the Copts to continue in their longestablished practice which has been tolerated by this See, so it is intolerable that they bitterly reject Baptism conferred in the Latin rite separately from Confirmation.”
The Second Category-Greeks Who Follow Some Latin Rites
- In the second category are those Orientals and Greeks who in the main observe their own rites, but out of respect follow some of the rites of the Latins and the Western Churches. This has been their practice from ancient times, and their bishops have examined and approved it. It has also been confirmed either expressly or tacitly by the Apostolic See. To this category belong the Armenians and Maronites who have abandoned the use of leavened bread in celebrating the Eucharist. Like the Latins they use unleavened bread (Abraham Echellensis, Eutychio vindicato, p. 477). Some of the Armenians attribute this practice to St. Gregory the Illuminator, their first bishop. At the start of the fourth century in the time of King Tiridates, he won the martyr’s crown. Others claim that Pope St. Sylvester or St. Gregory the Great approved the practice in meetings with the Armenian people. Pope Gregory IX refers to these in his letter to the king of Armenia (Raynaldus, 1139), no. 82). Gregory, Patriarch of Sis, certainly states that this practice was given to the Armenians by the Roman Church in his letter to Haytonis the cenobite, father of King Leo of Armenia: “So we have recently received from the Holy Roman Church the practice of mixing water (with the wine in the chalice) just as we formerly received the use of unleavened bread, the episcopal mitre, and the method of making the sign of the Cross (Clement Galanus, Conciliatione Ecclesiae Armenae cum Romana, vol. 1, p. 449).
Using Unleavened Bread
The practice of using unleavened bread dates from antiquity among the Maronites. This is clear from Morinus, Praefatione ad Maronitarum Ordinationes, and from the Bibliotheca Orientali Assemani senioris, vol. 1, p. 410. It was also affirmed at the national synod held at Mt. Libanus in 1736 and confirmed by Us in Our constitution no. 31, Singularis (Bullarium, vol. 1). We wrote there that: “This custom has been followed both in our church and among the Armenians in the east since time out of mind, and we can produce genuine proofs that this is so” (chap. 12, de Sacramento Eucharistiae, in the section on unleavened bread).
In emulation of this practice of the Armenians and Maronites, Cardinal Bessarion, first Commendatory Abbot of Grottaferrata in the diocese of Tusculum, brought it about that Greek monks in the abbey should consecrate unleavened bread (constitution 33, Inter multa, sect. Ut autem, Our Bullarium, vol. 2). This practice is still observed in the Collegiate Church of St. Mary de Grafeo in the diocese of Messana, even though this church’s clergy follow the Greek rite (constitution 81, Romana Ecclesia, sect. 1, Our Bullarium, vol. 1).
Generally speaking, Italian Greek priests in Italy and the nearby islands observe their own practice of consecrating the Eucharist with leavened bread. Priests of both the Latin and Greek rite should be warned to be careful to consecrate and distribute the Eucharist in accordance with their own rite, as We have stated in Our constitution, Etsi Pastoralis, 57, sect. 1, no. 2, ant sect. 6, no. 10f (Our Bullarium, vol. 1).
The Sacrament of the Eucharist Immediately Following Baptism
- For several centuries the practice prevailed in the Church of giving children the Eucharist after the sacrament of baptism. This practice flourished as a simple rite and custom; it involved no belief that it was necessary for the eternal salvation of the children, as the fathers of Trent wisely remarked (session 21, chap. 4). Among the errors of the Armenians which Pope Benedict XII condemned, the fifty eighth was their declaration that the Eucharist as well as Confirmation must be given to children at baptism to ensure the validity of their baptism and their eternal salvation (Raynaldus, 1341, sect. 66).
For the last four centuries, the Western church has not given the Eucharist to children after baptism. But it must be admitted that the Rituals of the Oriental churches contain a rite of Communion for children after baptism. Assemanus the Younger (Codicis Liturgici), bk. 2, p. 149) gives the ceremony of conferring baptism among the Melchites. On page 309, he quotes the Syrians’ baptismal ceremony as it was published by Philoxenus, the Monophysite Bishop of Mabbug, and on p. 306, the ceremony from the ancient Ritual of Severus, Patriarch of Antioch and leader of the Monophysites. He gives also the ceremonies of baptism observed by the Armenians and Copts (bk. 3, p. 95 and 130). All of these ceremonies command that the Eucharist should be given to children after baptism.
St. Thomas says that this practice was still observed by some Greeks in his time (Summa Th. 3, qu. 70, art. to the third). But Arcudius writes that this is the practice of the Greeks although some of them gradually abandoned it on account of the difficulties which arose repeatedly from offering the Eucharist to children at baptism (de Sacramento Eucharistiae, bk. 3, ch. 11.). Canon 7 of the Maronite Synod gathered at Mt. Lebanon on 18 September 1596 under Sergius Patriarch of Antioch and presided over by Fr. Jerome Dandin S.J., Nuncio of Pope Clement VIII, reads as follows: “Since Christ’s Holy Communion can hardly be given to children with propriety and due respect for the holy sacrament, all priests should in the future beware of allowing anyone to receive before he attains the use of reason.” The fathers of the synod of Zamoscia in 1720 agree with this view (sect. 3, de Eucharistia). And the Synod of Lebanon confirmed it in 1736: “In our old Rituals as well as in the old Roman ordo and in the Greek Euchologies, the minister of Baptism is clearly told to give the sacrament of the Eucharist to infants as soon as they are baptized ant confirmed. Still, both from due respect for this most august sacrament and since this is not necessary for the salvation of children and infants, we command that the Eucharist should not be offered to infants when they are baptized, not even under the appearance of wine” (chap. 12, Sanctissimo Eucharistiae Sacramento, no. 13). We made the same provision in Our constitution for Italian Greeks Etsi Pastoralis (Our Bullarium, vol. 1, sect. 2, no. 7).
Distributing Communion Under Both Species
- The Oriental and Greek practice of distributing the Eucharist under both species even to lay people has been discussed at length by Arcudius in in Concordia Occidentali, et Orientali in Sacramentorum administratione, bk. 3, chap. 4, and by Leo Allatius in his first note in de Ecclesiae Occidentalis, atque Orientalis consensione, p. 1614f. In the Greek College built in Rome by Gregory XIII, observance of the Greek rite is obligatory. Leo Allatius affirms this in his treatise on de aetate, et Interstitiis, p. 21. In accordance with the Constitution of the College confirmed by Pope Urban VIII, the students must make a confession every week and receive the holy Eucharist every fortnight as well as on solemn feast days and every Sunday in Advent and Lent, following the Latin rite, But on the greater feasts, at Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas, they are obliged to receive the Eucharist under both species in the Greek rite with leavened bread and unmixed wine. The wine is given to them by means of a small spoon. All other Greeks who come to Mass on those days, or who ask to receive the Eucharist according to the Greek rite on other days of the year, are given communion in the same way.
However, Our constitution 57 Etsi Pastoralis, sect. 6, no. 15, forbids the reception of Communion under both species by Italian Greeks except in places where this rite has been strongly upheld. Some Greeks and Orientals have gradually abandoned the practice of receiving communion under both species, even though it is the established custom of the whole Oriental church.
The famous Lucas Holstenius, writing to Bertoldus Nimissius, relates that he gave the Eucharist in the Vatican Basilica to an Abyssinian priest who came with others to communicate at the altar. When he had given him communion under the appearance of bread alone, he inquired of him as well as of other Ethiopians whether they in their own rite usually received the Eucharist under the appearance of bread alone, both on feast days and ordinary days and as viaticum for the dying. He declares that they answered that they always received communion under the appearance of bread alone, and that this ancient custom prevailed in the Ethiopian church (in Opusculis Graecis, ac Latinis of Leo Allatius, p. 436).
Among the statements requested by Pope Gregory XIII from the Patriarch of the Maronites is the following: “We celebrate Mass only with unleavened bread, but our laity communicate under both species.” The Pope replied: “If they wish to consecrate unleavened bread, it is obvious that they should not be prevented, but the laity should be slowly discouraged from communicating under both species. For all Christ is present under one species, and there is great danger of spilling if the chalice is used” (Thomas of Jesus, de Conversione omnium gentium, p. 486f).
The fathers at the Synod of Lebanon, 1736, passed a similar decree: “Next, following the practices of the Holy Roman Church, we order and strictly command that laity and minor clerics are not to receive Communion under both species, but under one species only, that of bread” (part 2, chap. 12, no. 21). They allowed only deacons to receive the Eucharist under both species at a high Mass, first under the appearance of bread, then of wine, without the use of a spoon as We mentioned above: “But we allow deacons, especially at High mass, to receive from the priest the host dipped in the Blood. A spoon however should not be used. We decree that the use of spoons at Communion should be absolutely abolished.”
Pouring Water into the Chalice
- Our final point on the Sacrament of the Eucharist concerns the other Oriental and Greek rite in which the priest pours a little warm water into the chalice, after consecration but before communion. Matthaeus Blastares mentions this rite and explains its meaning in his Syntagmate Alphabetico, chap. 8 (Synodicon Graecorum, vol. 2, p. 153), Euthymius, Archbishop of Tyre and Sidon, made some inquiries of Pope Clement XI in 1716. He asked whether the Melchites of Syria and Palestine should be forbidden to add warm water to the Divine Blood after the Consecration. The reply he received contained a clear, careful instruction which the Pope approved and ordered sent to the superiors of missions in the Holy Land, Damascus, Tyre, and Sidon. He ordered the Archbishop not to forbid this practice, since it was an ancient rite which the Apostolic See had examined and allowed to Greek priests even in Rome. The warm water signified the warmth of faith which should burst out in great flames in the face of so mighty a mystery. Pope Benedict XIII gave a similar answer on March 31, 1729, to Cyril, Greek Patriarch of Antioch. This rite is allowed to Italian Greeks in Our constitution 57, Etsi Pastoralis, sect. 6, no. 2.
Subsequently, in the Congregations formed for the careful revision of the books of the Eastern Church, when a long dispute arose as to whether the rite of pouring warm water into the chalice after the consecration should be prohibited, the answer was given on May 1, 1746, that “no changes should be made.” It is true that Cardinal Humbertus of Silva Candida had vigorously attacked this rite in earlier times, but it was discovered that his arguments against the rite lacked substance. Still the fathers of the Synod of Zamoscia in 1720 forbade Ruthenian priests to pour warm water into the chalice after the Consecration. “For a serious reason, the synod forbids and abolishes the rite which is tolerated in the Eastern Church of pouring warm water into the chalice after the Consecration before communion” (sect. 4 on the celebration of Mass).
- Such occurrences-and many could be recalled-are invoked by those who favor transference from the Oriental and Greek rite to the Latin rite. They think they act rightly in their eager attempts to bring Oriental converts to abandon, without Our prior consent, the rite they used to observe, even though this has been firmly maintained from ancient times by all other Orientals and Greeks.
But the events mentioned above and those which could be mentioned do not in the least support their opinion. For in the first place, transferring from an Oriental rite to the Latin rite removes all the prescriptions of the Oriental rite which are at variance with Our rite. But this is not what happened in the events We have mentioned; although a specific Greek ritual was abolished, the Greek rite itself and all its other prescriptions were preserved unchanged. In addition, to remove even a part of the rite is not within the power of any individual, but requires the intervention of the public authority of the supreme head of the universal Church, the Roman Pontiff.
For the Apostolic See possesses the preeminent right to decide what rituals are to be taken over from the Oriental church by the Latin church. As often as this Apostolic See has noticed that a dangerous or unfitting rite has made its way into the Oriental Church, it has condemned, criticized, and forbidden its use in the Latin Church. Lastly, whenever the Apostolic See sees Orientals or Greeks eager to take up a Latin ritual, particularly when this ritual is ancient, widely established, and either expressly or implicitly approved by the bishops, it has confirmed this practice by toleration and approval.
- The Creed is said in both the Latin and Greek liturgy. The practice of saying the Creed during the sacrifice of the Mass was first established in the Greek Church and then introduced in the Latin Church. This is evident from Canon Two of the third Council of Toledo in 589: “That the creed of the faith be said in all churches of Spain or Galicia in accordance with the form of the Oriental churches and of the council of Constantinople at which 150 bishops were present; that it be sung with clear voice by the people before the Lord’s prayer is said” (Labbe, Collectionis, vol. 5, p. 1009).
Since the fathers at Toledo appealed to the rite of the Oriental churches in establishing the practice of saying the Creed during Mass, it is quite evident that this practice was first established in the east and spread from there to the west. This is the opinion both of Cardinal Bona, Rerum Lyturgic, bk. 2, chap. 8, no. 2, and of Georgius, de lyturgia Romani Pontificis, vol. 2, chap. 20, no. 2, p. 176.
Adoration of the Cross
Continuing with Our topic, Amalarius in his de Divinis Officiis, chap. 14 (relying on the authority of St. Paulinus’ Epistola ad Severum) relates that the Cross on which Christ hung was exposed for the adoration of the faithful in the church at Jerusalem on Good Friday of Holy Week only. He declares that the ceremony of the adoration of the Holy Cross which forms part of the Good Friday service in every Latin church until the present day derived from this practice of the Greeks.
The trisagion: “Holy God, Holy Strong One, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us” is a pious and oft-repeated prayer in the Greek liturgy; Goarius correctly observes this in his in notis ad Euchologium, p. 109, in reference to the Mass of St. John Chrysostom. This prayer originated in a miracle which occurred in Constantinople in the middle of the fifth century. Emperor Theodosius, Patriarch Proclus, and all the people were beseeching God on open ground for deliverance from the destruction which threatened them from violent earthquakes. They suddenly saw a boy snatched up to heaven; when he was returned to earth, he reported that he had heard the angels singing the trisagion. At the bidding of the Patriarch Proclus, the whole people sang it with devotion and the terrifying earthquakes ceased, as is related by Nicephorus, bk. 14, chap. 46, and mentioned by Pope Felix III in his third letter to Peter the Fuller (Labbe, Collectionis, vol. 4). This same trisagion is sung in the western church in Greek and Latin on Friday of Holy Week, as Cardinal Bona remarks (Rerum Lyturgicar., bk. 2, chap. 10, no. 5).
Blessing of Water at Epiphany
The blessing of water on the eve of the Epiphany derives from the rite of the Greek Church, as Goarius shows at length in the case of the Euchology or Ritual of the Greeks. At the present time, on the same day, this ceremony is performed in Rome in the Church of the Greeks, as We recalled in constitution 57, sect. 5, no. 13, and the faithful are permitted to be sprinkled with this holy water.
On the transmission of this rite from the Oriental Church to some western churches two authorities may be consulted: Martene, vol. 4, de antiqua Ecclesiae disciplina in Dovomos celebrandis Officiis, chap. 4, no. 2, and Fr. Sebastianus Paulus of the Congregation of the Mother of God, De ritu Ecclesiae Neritinae exorcizandi aquam in Epiphania, Naples, 1719. The latter writer (part. 3, pp. 177ff) gives bishops an appropriate admonition not to give cause for rioting by attempting to abolish certain ceremonies which have at a great distance in time made their way into their dioceses from the Greek church. To attack these ceremonies, he says, would give the appearance of criticizing the way the Apostolic See has acted in regard to these rites. Although this See was well aware that these ceremonies had come from the Greek church it permitted them to be observed and attended. On p. 203 he quotes the letter of Cardinal Sanctorius of Sancta Severina written in 1580 to Fornarius, Bishop of Nerita, on this topic of the blessing of water at Epiphany which was performed in his diocese.
Stripping and Washing the Altar
The ceremony of stripping and washing the altar on Holy Thursday is also Greek. A reference to this ceremony is found in the fifth century. St. Sabas mentions it in his Typico, the Order of saying the Divine Office throughout the year. According to Leo Allatius, he died in 451 (de Libris Ecclesiae Graecae, dissert. I, p. 9). If it could be asserted with certainty that the Roman order published by Hittorpius was composed at the command of Pope St. Gelasius, the ceremony of washing the altars on Holy Thursday would be almost as ancient in the Latin Church as it is in the Greek Church, since Gelasius died in 496. But the antiquity of this Order is disputed and, apart from it, St. Isidore, Bishop of Hispala, is the first of the Latins to mention this ceremony. He died in 646. So probably this ceremony came to the west from the east and is observed to this day in some Latin churches with papal approval. In particular it is performed each year on Holy Thursday with great solemnity in the Vatican Basilica.
Suarez, Bishop of Vasionum and Vicar of this Basilica, and John Chrysostom Battellus, Archbishop of Amaseno, who were recently appointed Beneficiates of this Basilica, have each published a thoughtful treatise elucidating this ceremony. Therefore, it is evident from these examples that the Apostolic See, for good reasons, has adopted
for the whole Latin Church ceremonies which belong to the Greek Church and has allowed some Latin churches to observe particular ceremonies.
- We have mentioned above the miraculous way in which the trisagion entered the liturgies of the Greek Church. Peter the Fuller, surnamed Gnaphaeus, a promoter of the heresy of the Apollinarists who are called Theopaschites, attempted to add to the trisagion the words: “You who were crucified for us” (Theodorus Lector, Collectanear, bk. 1). And some eastern bishops, especially Syrians and Armenians, at the instigation of one James the Syrian, accepted this addition (Nicephorus, bk. 18, chap. 52). When this happened, the Roman popes with their usual watchful concern opposed this error from the start and prohibited the addition. They did not accept the interpretation which claimed that the trisagion referred to the person of the Son alone, not to the three divine persons, and so avoided all suspicion of error. For a danger of associating with heretical teaching still remained, and the human mind for all its rashness could not plausibly refer to Christ alone a hymn sung by the angels in honor of the Holy Trinity, as Lupus rightly observes (Notes ad Trullanum, canon 81). After relating that the addition to the trisagion had been condemned by Pope Felix III and a Roman synod, Lupus continues: “They declare firmly that the hymn eternally sung to the Trinity alone by the holy angels and transmitted to the Church by God Himself and the holy angels by means of the miraculous boy was confirmed by the cessation of the earthquakes which were threatening Constantinople. They were approved in this sense by the whole Council of Chalcedon (he refers both to the bishops who attended the Council and to those others who rejected the addition to the trisagion). Therefore the words of the hymn cannot be daringly twisted to signify Christ alone.”
St. Gregory VII, with similar zeal, condemned the addition in his letter to the Archbishop of Patriarch of the Armenians (bk. 8, 1). Gregory XIII acted in like manner in his Brief of February 14, 1577, to the Patriarch of the Maronites. In the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith which met on January 30, 1635, the liturgy of the Armenians was examined.
Among the matters which were carefully discussed was whether the addition to the trisagion could be tolerated on the grounds that it could be understood to refer to the person of the Son alone. The answer given was that it should not be allowed and that the addition should be utterly deleted.
Women Assisting at Mass
Pope Gelasius in his ninth letter (chap. 26) to the bishops of Lucania condemned the evil practice which had been introduced of women serving the priest at the celebration of Mass. Since this abuse had spread to the Greeks, Innocent IV strictly forbade it in his letter to the bishop of Tusculum: “Women should not dare to serve at the altar; they should be altogether refused this ministry.” We too have forbidden this practice in the same words in Our oft-repeated constitution Etsi Pastoralis, sect. 6, no. 21.
Eucharist for Viaticum
On Thursday of Holy Week, in memory of the Lord’s Supper, there is peformed the ceremony of consecrating the bread which is kept for a full year as viaticum for the mortally ill who request Holy Communion. Sometimes too a little of the consecrated wine is added to this consecrated bread. Leo Allatius describes this ceremony in his treatise, de Communione Orientalium sub specie unica num, no. 7. Pope Innocent IV in his letter to the bishop of Tusculum forbade the Greeks to perform this ceremony. “They should not reserve for a year the Eucharist which has been consecrated on Holy Thursday on the pretext that the sick may receive communion from this.” He added that they should always have the Eucharist ready for the sick, but that they should replace it every fortnight.
Arcudius, de Concordia Ecclesiae Occidentalis, et Orientalis, bk. 5, chap. 55 and 56, points out the extremes to which this ceremony leads and beseeches the popes to abolish it entirely. Clement VIII did this in an Instruction, as did We in Our constitution 57, Etsi Pastoralis, sect. 6, no. 3f. It was decreed at the Synod of Zamoscia, which was studied by the Congregation of the Council as well as by the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, that the ceremony of consecrating the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, pouring on it a drop of the Blood and keeping it for a full year for the sick should for the future be discontinued wherever it was still in practice. Parish priests should keep the Eucharist for the sick but replace it every week or fortnight (sect. 3, de Eucharistia). The fathers of the synod of Lebanon, which We confirmed, acted in the same way (chap. 12, de Sacramento Eucharistiae, no. 24).
These examples show clearly that the Apostolic See has always forbidden ceremonies to the Greeks, even if they already were prevalent among them, whenever it saw that these ceremonies were already or were in danger of becoming evil and destructive.
Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son
- Whenever the union of the Greek and Latin Church has been discussed, the chief matter of contention has been the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son. Examination of this point involves a triple aspect, and so is dealt with here under three headings. The first question is whether the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son is a dogma of the Faith. This question has always been firmly answered that there is no room for doubting that this procession is a dogma of the Faith and that every true Catholic accepts and professes this.
Granting that this is so, the second question is whether it is permissible to add the phrase “and from the Son” to the Creed in the Mass even though this phrase was not used at the Council of Nicea or the Council of Constantinople. The difficulty is increased in that the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus decreed that no additions should be made to the Nicene Creed: “The holy Council decrees that it is lawful for no one to produce or compose a Faith other than that defined by the holy fathers who assembled at Nicea together with the Holy Spirit.” It has been asserted in answer to this question that it is indeed lawful and very appropriate to make this addition to the Nicene Creed. The Council of Ephesus forbade only additions which are contrary to the Faith, presumptuous, and at variance with general practice, but not those additions which are orthodox and express more plainly some point of faith implied in that Creed.
On the assumption that the first two answers are accepted, the third and final question is whether Orientals and Greeks can be allowed to say the Creed in the way they used to before the Schism, that is to say, without the phrase “and from the Son.” On this final point, the practice of the Apostolic See has varied. Sometimes it allowed the Orientals and Greeks to say the Creed without this addition. This allowance was made when it was certain that they accepted the first two points, and it realized that insistence on the addition would block the way to union. At other times this See has insisted on Greeks and Orientals using the addition. It has done this when it had grounds to suspect that they were unwilling to include the addition in the Creed because they shared the false view that the Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Father and the Son or that the Church had no power to add the phrase “and from the Son.”
The former approach was used by two popes-Blessed Gregory X at the Council of Lyons and Eugenius IV at the Council of Florence-for the reasons already mentioned (Harduin, Collectionis Conciliorum, vol. 7, p. 698D, and vol. 9, p. 305D). The latter position was taken by Pope Nicholas III when he realized that Emperor Michael was not acting in good faith and was not abiding by the promises he had made in establishing union with his predecessor Pope Gregory X. The evidence for this comes from the Vatican Archives and is printed in Raynaldus, 1278, sect. 7. Martin IV and Nicholas IV acted in the same manner. Although the sources are contradictory about the attitude of these popes to this affair, Pachymeres, who was then writing the history of Constantinople, openly declares that they did not imitate the fair judgment of their predecessors. Rather they required that Orientals and Greeks add “and from the Son” to the Creed, in order to remove doubts about their orthodoxy, “to make a definite trial of the faith and opinion of the Greeks; the suitable pledge of this would be for them to say the same Creed as the Latins.”
Pope Eugenius IV at the Council of Florence allowed the Orientals to say the Creed without the addition. But when he later received the Armenians into union he obliged them to include it (Harduin, vol. 9, p. 435B) perhaps because he had learned that the Armenians were less averse to the addition then were the Greeks.
Similarly, Pope Callistus III, when he sent Brother Simon of the Order of Preachers to Crete in the capacity of Inquisitor, commanded him to watch carefully that the Greeks said “and from the Son” in the Creed, since in Crete there were many Greek refugees from Constantinople which had fallen to the Turks two years earlier (Gregory of Trebizond, epistola ad Cretans, in his Graeciae Orthodoxae, quoted by Allatius, p. 537, and confirmed by Echardus, Scriptorum Ordinis Sanai Dominici, vol. 1, p. 762). It may be that the Pope suspected that the Greeks from Constantinople were weak in this dogma of the faith.
There is nothing at variance with the decrees of the Council of Florence in either of the two forms of the Profession of Faith which, as We have mentioned, were required of the Greeks by Gregory XIII and of the Orientals by Urban VIII. Constitution 34, sect. 6, of Clement VIII (veteris Romani Bullarii, vol. 3) and Our constitution Etsi Pastoralis, sect. 1, are both addressed to Latin bishops with Greeks and Albanians who observe the Greek rite living in their dioceses. These people should not be ordered to say the Creed with the addition of the phrase “and from the Son,” provided that they confess that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and that they recognize the Church’s power of making this addition. They should be obliged to say the additional phrase, however, it its ommission would cause scandal, if this particular custom of reciting the Creed with its addition prevailed in their locality, or it were thought necessary to obtain unambiguous proof of the correctness of their faith. However, both the fathers of the synod of Zamoscia (heading 1, de Fide Catholica and the fathers of the synod of Lebanon (pt. 1, no. 12) were right to prudently decree, in order to remove every doubt, that all priests subject to them should use the Creed with its additional phrase in accordance with the custom of the Roman Church.
- The obvious conclusion from the foregoing remarks is that in this matter the Apostolic See has sometimes agreed in certain circumstances and in consideration of the character of individual people to make specific concessions which it has refused to others in different circumstances among different peoples. So to complete the task which We have begun, We have only to show that this Apostolic See has kindly allowed an Oriental or Greek people to use a Latin ceremony to which they were devoted, particularly if they adopted this ceremony in ancient times and if the bishops did not oppose it at any time, but approved it either expressly or implicitly.
Latin Rite Adopted by Oriental Church
We referred to evident examples of this occurrence above, in mentioning the category of Orientals and Greeks who respect equally the Latin and Greek rites. In the main they observe their own ceremonies, but are attached to some of Ours. Therefore, We will refrain from useless repetition, merely recalling here what was fully presented earlier in this letter. We shall add just two examples from the Maronites. For several centuries the episcopal and priestly vestments of the Maronites have resembled exactly the vestments prescribed in the Latin rite (Synod of Lebanon 1736, chap. 12, on the sacrament of the Eucharist, no. 7). Pope Innocent 111 in his letter Quia Divinae Sapientiae bonitas to Patriarch Jeremiah in 1215 exhorted them to imitate the episcopal vestments of the Latin Church. In consequence this pope and his successors sent them gifts of holy vestments, chalices, and patens (Patriarch Peter in two letters to Leo X in Labbe, Collectionis Conciliorum, vol. 14, p. 346f). Recently at the synod of Lebanon (chap. 13), unanimously and with Our approval, the Maronites adopted the Latin rite in regard to the Mass of the Presanctified. They celebrate it only on Good Friday, since they have abandoned for just reasons the practice of the Greeks who offer only the Mass of the Presanctified on the days of the Lenten fast, except on Saturdays, Sundays, and the feast of the Annunciation when it occurs in Lent, as is laid down in Trullan Canon 52. On these days the priest divides the consecrated bread into as many pieces as will suffice for celebrating the Mass of the Presanctified on the following days. On these days he consumes and distributes to the congregation these pieces, which he had reserved in the ciborium (Leo Allatius in his prolegomena to Gabriel Naud, de Missa Praesanctificatorum, p. 1531, n. 1).
- One might think that this letter could end at this point. It has answered the questions raised by the missionary priest at Balsera by stating that “no changes should be made.” Also it has mentioned the stringent rules to be followed by missionaries engaged in recalling Orientals from schism and error to the unity of the holy Catholic faith. The Canons and Apostolic Constitutions prohibit those who convert Orientals from attempting to destroy the Oriental and Greek rite in matters which the Apostolic See allows and prohibits trying to make converts abandon the rite they previously observed and embrace the Latin rite. Nevertheless, before ending, We may fittingly touch on some additional points which are quite relevant to the questions raised by the missionary who has been told that “no changes should be made.”
- Now it is true that in the city of Balsera, Armenian and Syrian Catholics of the Oriental rite who have no church of their own assemble at the church of the Latin missionaries. Their priests celebrate Mass and other ceremonies there according to their own rite in the presence of the laity, who also receive the Sacraments. Still, it is not difficult to uphold the decision that “no changes should be made”; therefore the prevailing practice should continue, that is, that the priests and laity should continue celebrating in the Latin church the rites they have celebrated until now.
Canon Law decrees that the Oriental and Greek rite should not be mixed with the Latin rite. See the entire Decretal of Celestine III in Gonzales, chap. Cum secundum: de temporibus Ordinationum; in the decretal of Innocent III, see chap. Quanto: de consuetudine; chap. Quoniam: de Officio Judic. Ordinar.; and the Decretal of Honorius III, chap. Literas: de celebrat. Missar. But there are no good grounds for declaring that this mixing of rite forbidden by Apostolic Constitution is being practiced in the simple case of an Armenian, Maronite, or Greek celebrating Mass or other ceremonies with their own laity according to their own rite in a Latin church. Nor are there grounds in the opposite case of a Latin doing likewise in an Oriental church, especially when there is a just cause for doing so. Clearly such a cause exists in the present case, since the Orientals in the city of Balsera have no church of their own. If they were deprived of the Latin church, they would have nowhere to offer the sacrifice of the Mass and perform the essential ceremonies with the laity of their rite which maintain and nourish them in holy unity.
- An example of the forbidden mixing of rite would be a Latin consecrating leavened bread and giving communion from it to Latins. It would be the same if Orientals who do not consecrate unleavened bread were to do so and to distribute it to their people for holy communion. Latin Ordinaries who have Italian Greeks subject to them should show a careful concern “that Latins receive communion from unleavened bread and Greeks from leavened bread where they have their own parish” (Our constitution Etsi Pastoralis, sect. 6, no. 14).
Another example of forbidden mixing of rites would be a priest celebrating Mass at one time according to the Latin rite and at another time according to the Greek rite. St. Pius V forbids this in his constitution 21, Providentia (Bull. novi, vol. 4, pt. 2, Rome). He revokes absolutely all faculties of so doing which had previously been granted to-some priests. Our constitution 57, sect. 7, no. 10, agrees with this constitution of Pius V. Even though priests in charge of colleges of Orientals in Rome who became Jesuits and transferred from the Greek to the Latin rite have received a dispensation to sometimes offer the sacrifice of the Mass in the Greek and Oriental rite, as already mentioned, this has been approved in order that their students may learn how to celebrate Mass in their own rite since they are bound to profess the Greek and Maronite rite and conduct divine services in accordance with it thoughout their lives. The particular circumstances of this obviously unique case show clearly enough that it cannot be used as an exemplary argument for gaining similar dispensations.
Cardinal Kollonitz advised Pope Clement XI that allowing Latin missionaries in Hungary to celebrate in the Greek rite whenever this appeared necessary, while remaining at liberty to return to the Latin rite, would be beneficial to the Church. The Pope rejected the Cardinal’s advice because he felt that each one should remain in his own rite in accordance with the provisions of the Canons and that a priest should not be permitted to change the rite in which he celebrated Mass. This is clear from his Brief to the Cardinal on May 9, 1705 (Epistolar. et Brev. selectior, ejusdem Pontificis typis editor, p. 205).
- These among many other examples refer to the mixing of rite, which is forbidden by the Church’s laws. But there is no forbidden mixing of rites involved if, for a lawful cause, priests of the Oriental rite are allowed to celebrate Mass and other services in a Latin church and administer the sacraments to their own people. We see this happening openly in Rome where our churches are available to Armenian, Coptic, Melchite, and Greek priests for the celebration of Mass to satisfy their piety, even though they have their own churches where they could offer the sacrifice of the Mass. They have only to bring with them the vestments and other necessities for celebrating Mass according to their rite, as well as a server from their own people; they must also take appropriate steps with guards and prefects of the sanctuary to prevent riotous tumults among the bystanders on account of the novelty of the event. These matters are fully discussed in the edict promulgated at Our command on February 13, 1743, by Our Vicar General in the City and its district, Giovanni Antonio Guadagni, who then was titular priest of Sts. Sylvester and Martin on the Mountains and is now Bishop of Tusculum and Cardinal.
Important for this topic is the following event: about the middle of the fifteenth century, as is well known, Mahomet II began to attack Constantinople. Some of the Greeks who had rejected the errors of the Schismatics and preserved union with the Latin Church retreated to Venice and remained there. When the Greek Cardinal Isidore came there, he informed the Senate of the Pope’s wishes to have a church assigned to these people of the Greek rite for their services. The piety of the Senate was aroused, and they gave the refugees the Church of St. Blasius. In one chapel of this church for many years the Greeks performed the divine services in the Greek rite, while in the other chapels, the Latins worshipped in the Latin rite. This is attested by the renowned Flaminius Cornelius Scriptor, Venetarum Ecclesiarum, Decad. 14, p. 359: “So the services of both rites were celebrated for several years in different chapels of the same church.” This practice continued until the Greeks’ numbers rose and another church in addition to the Church of St. Blasius was allotted to them for their own private use.
- This incident concerns Greeks who were allowed to celebrate their services in Latin Churches. But to show more clearly that this does not entail the mixing of rites forbidden by the Church, it will be appropriate to mention also Latins who for a just reason were permitted to offer the sacrifice of the Mass and perform divine services in Greek churches. This will not only confirm the opinion We have presented, but will help much to show the necessity of unanimity and benevolence among Catholics of different rites.
In White Russia, Ruthenian Catholics, who are known as United, have many churches while the Latins have few; these are far distant from the districts of the Latins who live among the Ruthenians. Sometimes the Latins are deprived of Mass for a long period because their business prevents them from travelling as far as the nearest Latin church. Latin priests could not easily travel to the few Latin churches there to celebrate Mass since those churches were so far from their own place of residence. So to avoid depriving the Latins for long periods of Mass celebrated in the Latin rite, there was only one solution: for Latin priests to celebrate the Mass in the Latin rite for the welfare of the Latins in the Ruthenian churches. At this point a difficulty was recognized in that Greek altars have no holy stone, since they offer Mass on the antimensia, that is, linens consecrated by the bishop with relics of the saints at the corners. For this reason Latin priests were obliged to bring the holy stone with them at great inconvenience, and risk breaking it in the course of the journey. But at last a timely remedy was discovered and applied to all these inconveniences by God’s help. With the agreement of the Ruthenians, Latin priests were allowed to celebrate Mass in the Latin rite in the Ruthenian churches, and on the antimensia. This was approved more readily because Ruthenian priests who sometimes came to say Mass in Latin churches consecrated the sacrifice on our altar stones. This matter is treated in full in Our constitution 43, Imposito nobis (Bullarii nostri, vol. 3).
- The following fact is also important. Learned men are divided as to whether the ancient practice of the western church was to have one or more altars in basilicas. Schelestratus declares that there was only one altar (Actor. Ecclesiae Orientalis, pt. 1, chap. 2 de Missa Privata in Ecclesia Latina). On the other hand Cardinal Bona, on the authority of Walfrid, chap. 4, shows that there were many altars in the Roman basilica of St. Peter (Rerum Lyturgicar, bk. I, chap. 14, no. 3). But if one considers the Oriental and Greek churches and basilicas, it seems evident that there was only one altar in them, and even today this is generally the case. This can be seen from the drawings of these churches in Du Cange, Constantinopoli Christiana; Beveregius, ad Pandectas Canonum; and Goarius in Euchologium Graecorum. Since in the Greek Church of St. Athanasius in Rome there are many altars, Leo Allatius in his letter to Joannes Marinus de Templis Graecorum recentiorum, no. 2 states with certainty that this church has no Greek form except the Bema or enclosure which separates the main altar from the rest of the church.
At this altar, only one Mass may be celebrated each day. This practice of the Greeks is mentioned by Dionysius Barsalibaeus, the Jacobite bishop of Amida, in Explanatione Missae, and by Cyriacus, Patriarch of the Jacobites, as the Jacobite Gregorius Barhebraeus says in his Directorio. Assemanus quotes these writers in his Biblioth. Oriental., vol. 2, p. 184, and vol. 3, part 1, p. 248. Cardinal Bona writes on this practice as follows: “They have a single altar in their churches, and they consider it wrong to repeat the Sacrifice in the sanctuary on the same day” (op. cit. chap. 14, no. 3).
Euthymius, Archbishop of Tyre and Sidon, and Cyril, Greek Patriarch of Antioch, several times during the pontificates of Clement XI, Benedict XIII, and Clement XII inquired whether they should allow this practice to continue which forbade the offering of a second Mass at the same altar on the same day. They always received the response that no changes were to be made and the ancient rite was to be preserved entire. The people came to believe mistakenly that the reason for not offering a second Mass at the same altar on the same day was that the second priest to celebrate Mass in the same vestments as the first was infringing a period of fasting. So in Our encyclical letter to the Greek Melchite Patriarch of Antioch and the Catholic bishops subject to him, We commanded them to inform the people that this was an error. They were to do this, however, without changing the practice of one priest only offering Mass on the same day at the same altar (constitution 87, Demandatam, Bullarii Nostri, vol. 1).
- Finally, it was custom in both the western and the eastern church for the priests to offer Mass together with the bishop. The evidence is collected by Christianus Lupus in the Appendix on the Council of Chalcedon in his ad Concilia Generalia, et Provincialia, vol. 1, p. 994, of the first edition, where he interprets the words of Bassianus: “He used to celebrate Masses with me and to communicate with me”; and by Georgius, Lyturgiae Pontificiae, vol. 2, p. lf, and vol. 3, p. lf. The rite of concelebration is now out of fashion in the western church, except at priestly ordinations performed by the bishop and at episcopal consecrations where two bishops assist the consecrating bishop. But this rite continues to thrive in the Oriental Church, and priests often concelebrate with the bishop or with the priest as chief celebrant. This practice is derived from the Apostolic Constitutions, bk. 8, and the eighth Apostolic Canon. And wherever this custom is practiced among Greeks and Orientals, it is approved and to be preserved as We command in Our constitution Demandatam, sect. 9.
- Some have used this Greek and Oriental rite of concelebration as an argument for questioning whether there is any place in their church for private Masses said by an individual priest, since there is only a single altar in Greek churches and only one Mass is offered at it and priests concelebrate with the bishop or a chief celebrant. The Lutherans were careful to send the Augsburg Confession, which abolished private Masses, to Jeremiah, Patriarch of Constantinople, for his approval and acceptance. But since the traditional practice of private Mass in the Oriental Church is derived from Trullan Canon 31, and defended by this canon and the commentary on it written by Theodore Balsamon, both the rite of frequent concelebration and the practice of private Masses have remained unharmed in the Oriental Church. So the efforts of the Lutherans came to nothing. They were told that the East as well as the West condemned the evil practice of men who approached the altar with a wicked desire of obtaining offerings, but not the actions of men who with religious piety celebrated private Masses in order to offer to God an acceptable sacrifice. This is evident from Schelestratus, ex Actis Ecclesiae Orientalis contra Lutheranos, chap. 1: on private Masses in the Greek Church, towards the end. For the convenience of priests who want to offer a private Mass, while preserving the custom of offering only one Mass at the one altar in the church, the Greeks began to set up Paracclesias. These are mentioned by Leo Alla ius in his letter to Joannes Morinus. Paracclesiae are oratories beside the church in which there is an altar for the celebration of Masses which cannot be said in the church because Mass has akeady been said there on that day.
- Some have with reason feared that this practice would permanently prevent Latin priests from offering Mass in Greek Churches, since these have only one altar which cannot be used twice on the same day for the celebration of Mass. In that case, Latin priests could not use the oratories for saying Mass since these were built for Greeks only. But to dispel this fear, it can be seen that today Greek churches generally have a second altar at which Latin priests can celebrate Mass. Goarius describes three kinds of Greek churches in his Euchologium Graecorum. The third kind has a second altar built, as Goarius thinks, for Latin priests, and Schelestratus follows him in this view (p. 887).
In the Maronite and Greek churches in Rome, besides the main altar, there are other altars at which Latin priests say Mass. In Our constitution Etsi Pastoralis, sect. 6, no, 8-9, We deal with the best way of treating Italian Greeks, and in this passage We forbid Latin priests ever to celebrate Mass at the main altar in Greek churches except in a case of absolute necessity and then only with the consent of the Greek parish priest. We also allow the Greeks to build altars in their churches apart from the main altar and at these, Latin priests may, if they wish, celebrate Mass.
- The previous statements show clearly that the Catholic Armenians and Syrians who live among the Latins in Balsera and have no church of their own should be allowed to continue meeting in the Latin church as they have been doing, in order to hold the holy services in accordance with their rite. This permission is given not only because their action does not constitute a mixture of rite which is forbidden in the Apostolic Constitutions, but also because the situation calls for kindness, or rather compliance with the law of equity. This demands that a place should be gladly given to those who have no place in which to perform what they are required by law to perform. Therefore it only remains to command that the binding laws of love be observed and that a chapel or part of a church be assigned to the Orientals for holding their services. All care should be taken to hold the Latin and the Greek services at different times. Otherwise more disputes which so plagued Our two predecessors Leo X and Clement VII might be caused.
At that time, contrary to the argument made at the Council of Florence under Eugenius IV that the Greeks should not be hindered in the observance of their rites, these popes learned that certain Latins were going to Greek churches and celebrating Mass in the Latin rite at their altar with the design of preventing Greek priests from offering the Sacrifice in their own rite. On several occasions Greeks were deprived of the Sacrifice of the Mass even on feast days. “Under a strange inspiration, they (the Latin priests) sometimes take possession of the altars of parish churches and there, against the will of the Greeks, they celebrate Mass and other services. The result is that the Greeks often remain without Mass to their great annoyance on feast days and other days when they usually attend Mass.” These complaints of the Pope are contained in the document beginning Provisionis nostrae and can be found on page 86 of the Greek Manual published at Beneventum in 1717. We have no reason to join in their complaints. But if We ever hear that Our Latins are preventing the Orientals at Balsera from holding their services in the Latin churches, Our severe complaints will be accompanied by appropriate remedies.
- A second question in regard to these Armenians and Syrians is whether they may use the old calendar in fixing the date of Easter and of the other moveable feasts, or whether they should follow the revised calendar when they hold services in the Latin churches. It is also asked to what extent the use of the old calendar is lawful for them and whether this decision also binds those Orientals who, because they have only a small church which cannot hold them all, are forced to come in great numbers to Latin churches.
- Everyone knows the provisions of Popes St. Pius and St. Victor and of the Council of Nicea concerning the proper celebration of Easter. All likewise are aware that the Council of Trent reserved to the Pope the question of revising the calendar, and that finally the matter was resolved in all its details in the time of Pope Gregory XIII. For this reason Bucherius writes in the preface to his Commentario de doctrina temporum: “At the bidding of Pope Gregory XIII, Clavius has fully seen to the definite reckoning of Easter in future years.” Clavius was a Jesuit priest with scientific talents who contributed greatly to the correction of the calendar. The Pope also studied the calculations of Aloysius Lilius, which had taken years to complete. Finally, after weighing all aspects of the difficulty during many meetings and after consulting with many experts, he published in 1582 his constitution Inter gravissimas which established the regular calendar (in veteri Bullario, vol. 1, cons. 74).
- This papal constitution revoked the old calendar and ordered Patriarchs, primates, archbishops, bishops, and abbots to use the newly revised calendar. This can be seen both in the constitution itself and in the Annals of Gregory XIII, vol. 2, p. 271. Rome 1742. But since there is no mention of Orientals in the constitution, the question arises as to whether it applies to Orientals. This question has been raised not only by learned men such as Azorius, Instit. Moral., vol. 1, bk. 5, chap. 11, qu. 7; and Baldellus, Theologia Morali, vol. 1, bk. 5, disp. 41, but it was also discussed by the famous gentlemen who met in the palace of Cardinal Pamphilius, later Pope Innocent X, on July 4, 1631. These men concluded that “the subjects of the four eastern patriarchates should not be bound by new papal constitutions except in three cases: first, on the subject of teachings of the faith; second, if the Pope mentions them expressly in his Constitution and makes arrangements; third, it they are implicitly included in the arrangements of the Constitution as in cases of invitation to a future council.” This resolution is reported by Verricellus, de Apostolicis Missionibus, bk. 3, chap. 38, no. 4, and by Us in Our work on de Canonizatione Sanct., bk. 2, chap. 38, no. 15.
- We pass this question by since there is no pressing need to discuss it at present. It is sufficient for Us to point out how the Apostolic See has acted in this affair. On the evidence of this See in earlier actions, the wisest answer it has made to the question is that “no changes are to be made.”
The Apostolic See has ordered Italian Greeks who live among us, subject to the authority of the Latin bishops in whose dioceses they reside, to adopt the new calendar (Etsi Pastoralis, 57, sect. 9, no. 3f). The clergy of the Collegiate Church of St. Mary de Graphaeo in Messana who observe the Greek rite, follow the new calendar most carefully (constitution 81, Romana Ecclesia, sect. 1, Our Bullarii, vol. 1). Still its adoption is not so stringently insisted on that no room is left for fairness when serious reasons demand it. The Armenian Catholics living in Lebanon refused to accept the Gregorian calendar and were dispensed from using it by Pope Innocent XII.
At the Congregation of the Holy Office on Wednesday, June 20, 1674, this decree was issued:
“There has again been mention of the letter of the Apostolic Nuncio at Florence sent on April 10 concerning the petitions made to him by Armenians for permission to pray for the Armenian patriarch during Mass, to celebrate Easter and the other feasts according to their own rite, that is, according to the old computation which was in force before the revision of the calendar etc…. Reference was also made to the answer of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith on the matter of praying for the Armenian Patriarch during Mass: “Let the nuncio be answered that in this matter the Sacred Congregation abides by the decrees issued on June 7, 1673; that is, it cannot be done and should be absolutely forbidden. As regards the celebration of Easter and the other feasts they similarly abide by the decrees that the Armenians in Liburnum should observe the Gregorian Calendar.” So when these Armenians refused to obey this decree, investigation of the matter was entrusted to a special congregation of learned Cardinals. Among these were Cardinal Joanne Franciscus Albanus, who was later elected Pope, and Cardinal Henricus Norisius, who was famous in learned circles.
This congregation issued the following decree on September 23, 1699, and the Pope confirmed it on the same day: “After prolonged consideration of the subject and its many details, they decided in accordance with the original proposals that the Armenian Catholics living in Liburnum who have their own church could be allowed the use of the old calendar until they are disposed to accept the full observance of the Gregorian Calendar. This would be allowed at the good pleasure of the Apostolic See with the further condition that they should refrain from servile works and be required to hear Mass on the feast days of obligation in the Gregorian calendar.”
- The Oriental Greeks were asked to use the newly revised calendar, but this request was in vain. The articles and conditions presented to the Ruthenians in the time of Clement VIII when a union was effected mentioned accepting the calendar. They replied that “we will accept the new calendar if it can be made to accord with the old” (Thomas of Jesus, Operum, p. 329). Although there was some ambiguity in this reply, We learn of no further steps taken in this matter, nor did the theologian appointed to investigate the case pass any judgment on this article (op. cit., p. 335f).
Sometimes, however, Orientals have of their own accord adopted the new calendar, as can be seen from the statement of the provincial synod of the Maronites in 1736 to which We have often referred. “We command that the Roman calendar revised by Pope Gregory XIII, the eminent benefactor of Our people, be strictly observed in all our churches in reckoning both fast days and feast days, whether movable or immovable. And We order that the method of use of this calendar be taught to the boys in every church by their teachers in addition to Church music.”
But whenever the Orientals did not accept it and there was good reason to fear riotous protests if the use of the new calendar was imposed on them, the Apostolic See has tolerated the observance of the ancient practice of the Orientals and Greeks in distant places. It has done this by allowing them to follow the old calendar until a more favorable opportunity developed for introducing the use of the newly revised calendar. The decrees of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith of August 22, 1625, and April 30, 1631, and the Holy Inquisition of July 18, 1613, and December 14, 1616, are in harmony with this procedure. Sometimes, indeed, missionaries have even been allowed to follow the old calendar while living in districts where only the old calendar was in use (Decrees of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, April 16, 1703, and December 16, 1704).
- It remains to discuss the final enquiry about fasting. Syrian and Armenian Catholics abstain from fish on fast days in accordance with their rite. But when they see the Latins eating fish, it is claimed that it is impossible or at least very hard for them to refrain from fish. So the seemingly reasonable suggestion is made that missionaries should be empowered to give them a dispensation with circumspection and without risk of scandal, and to substitute another pious work for abstinence from fish.
This would be an ideal place to deal with the antiquity of fasting in the east and of how its obligations have always been strictly observed despite their severity. To avoid excessive length, however, We confine Ourselves to saying that the Apostolic See has always opposed the Patriarchs whenever they wanted to relax the ancient harshness of the fast imposed on their subjects. Peter the Maronite Patriarch permitted the archbishops and bishops subject to him to eat meat as the laity did although the ancient practice had them abstain from meat. He allowed his entire people to eat fish and drink wine in Lent although this had been forbidden to them. But Pope Paul V wrote a Brief to the Patriarch who succeeded Peter on March 9, 1610, commanding him to restore the earlier state of affairs by revoking the concessions of Patriarch Peter.
During Our own pontificate the excessive good-natured laxity of Euthymius, Archbishop of Tyre and Sidon, and of Cyril Patriarch of Antioch, towards the Greek Melchites was investigated and condemned (constitution 87, Demandatam, sect. 6). “Judging that this innovation and relaxation of rigorous abstinence tends to the excessive harm of the ancient practice of the Greek churches, even though these measures have no force without the authority of the Apostolic See, We expressly revoke them by Our authority. We command that they should have no effect for the future nor be implemented in any way, but that everything should be restored to its former condition. Moreover, We order that the praiseworthy custom of your fathers of abstaining from fish every Wednesday and Friday throughout the year be observed in all the Patriarchate of Antioch, just as it is practiced among the neighboring peoples of the Greek rite.”
It is nonsensical to affirm that a dispensation, or rather a general faculty of dispensing, should be granted on the grounds that Orientals are easily tempted to eat fish themselves by the sight of Latins eating fish on a fast day, yielding to the weakness of their nature and not from contempt. For if this argument were at all persuasive it would lead to an absolute mixture of rites. A further result would be that Latins at the sight of Greeks living in ways which are forbidden to Latins could seek a dispensation to allow them to do what they see the Greeks doing. They would claim that they accepted the Latin rite, but that from the weakness of their nature they could no longer observe it.
- We thought We should explain these matters in this encyclical letter to reveal the bases of the answers given to the missionary who raised the questions mentioned at the beginning. But We also wanted to make clear to all the good will which the Apostolic See feels for Oriental Catholics in commanding them to observe fully their ancient rites which are not at variance with the Catholic religion or with propriety. The Church does not require schismatics to abandon their rites when they return to Catholic unity, but only that they forswear and detest heresy. Its great desire is for the preservation, not the destruction, of different peoples-in short, that all may be Catholic rather than all become Latin.
We end Our letter at last, imparting to its every reader the Apostolic Blessing.
Given at St. Mary Major, July 26, 1755, in the fifteenth year of Our pontificate.
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