2007-07-20 16:46:00

New document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith does not affirm superiority of Catholicism over other confessions

In his interview with the Interfax-Religion website Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the Holy See representative in Russia, comments on the recent two Roman Catholic documents strategically important from the perspective of the tasks and priorities the Vatican has set itself in its policy. These documents are: Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church and Summorum Pontificum, an apostolic letter of Benedict XVI on the Latin mass.

- In your opinion, what effect will the Vatican document on the superiority of the Catholic Church over other Christian confessions have on the ecumenical dialogue?

- As it is written in the introduction to it, the new document published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been prompted by the desire to clarify some expressions of the church teaching on the Catholic ecclesiology and therefore, as Metropolitan Kirill has rightly remarked recently, essentially it has brought nothing new and it fully corresponds with the teaching of the Catholic Church. Having thoroughly studied its contents, I would not say it affirms any “superiority of the Catholic Church over other Christian confessions”. It rather sets forth in an objective way the characteristics which make it possible to regard a ‘church community’ as the Church. First of all, it is the apostolic succession handed down in the sacrament of ordination and present, as Metropolitan Kirill has recently emphasized, in the Orthodox Church, but absent in church communities born out of the Reformation.

Actually we read in the text that “separated” Churches are also “instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church”. On the other hand, the document stresses the need to search for ways towards unity, which the Catholic Church itself needs in order to be truly itself, as it follows further from the text: “Universality, which is proper to the Church governed by the Successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him, is not fully realised in history.”

- The recent Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum has become another ground for a worldwide discussion. It simplifies the procedure for celebrating the Latin mass in Catholic parishes. Is it possible, in your opinion, for the Trent mass to be celebrated in Moscow and other cities in Russia? Is there any demand for it here; are Russian Catholics interested in it?

- I would like to specify that what is in point is not the Trent mass, but the liturgy according to the Roman Missal (Missale Romanum) issued by Pope John XXIII in 1962, which has never been canonically repealed. This liturgy can be celebrated as an extraordinary form, while the Missal issued by Pope Paul VI and subsequently re-issued twice by Pope John Paul II remains a regular form of the Eucharistic service. Incidentally, we should not forget that the use of the previous version of the Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical education as well as an adequate knowledge of Latin. Both are rare today. It is wrong to speak about “two rites” as there are two versions of the same canonical rite.

As His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has stressed, “there is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church's faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place”. I personally have always noted the great consideration given in Russia to the beauty and reverence of the liturgy, thanks also to the dominating influence of the Orthodox culture. The Pope’s call to reflect anew on the liturgical dimension perfectly fits in this context. This can be realized both through the use of the 1962 Missal on some occasions and mostly through a new discovery of traditional elements of the liturgy in the use of the regular Missal.