Pope Urges Eastern-Rite Churches Not to Be Imprisoned in Past

Evangelization Is Key to Surmount Internal Difficulties, He Says

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 21, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II exhorted leaders of Eastern-rite Catholic Churches not to be imprisoned in the past, but to overcome their difficulties by being open to their missionary vocation.



When he met today with the 65 representatives who were participating in the plenary assembly of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches, the Pope reiterated the proposal for the "pastoral renewal" of these Churches, whose origin dates back to the first Christian communities.

"In fact, each particular ecclesial community must not limit itself to the study of its internal problems," he said. "Rather, it must open itself to the great horizons of the modern apostolate destined for the men of our time, in a special way toward young people, the poor and the 'fallen away.'"

The Catholic Church is made up of particular Churches of the Latin rite (to which the greatest number of Catholics belong), as well as of Churches of Eastern rites, among which there are five traditions: Alexandrian, Antiochian, Armenian, Chaldean and Constantinopolitan.

The Holy Father said that among these communities, whose sees are in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Asia, there are often many difficulties: "numerical scarcity, lack of means, isolation, minority condition."

These circumstances "often impede serene and fruitful pastoral, educational, helpful and charitable action," the Pope noted. Moreover, these communities experience "an incessant migratory flow toward the West of the most promising components" of these Churches, he added.

Given this difficult situation, John Paul II exhorted Eastern Catholics not to be imprisoned by "formulas of the past," but to "open themselves to a healthy updating" -- "aggiornamento," he said in Italian, the word used by John XXIII to express the renewal that the Second Vatican Council would promote.

The key to this updating, John Paul II concluded, quoting the "Good Pope," is in the "wise harmony between the new and the old."