Thursday, 6 October 2011

IEC 2012: Developing the theme (2)

The Eucharist: Communion with God and with one another is the overarching theme of the Dublin Eucharistic Congress. It is intriguing to look at how this theme is expressed in the Congress Week programme.

One wonders, for example, whether it is adequate to consider Exploring and Celebrating Ministry – Ordained and Lay as one theme given the manner in which the ordained ministry is particularly a ministry of the Eucharist towards the lay faithful. There is a question about the indiscriminate use of the term "ministry" to refer univocally to both the ordained and the lay state. The day might, of course, present this theme in a way entirely consonant with the genuine sense of the overarching theme - the ordained ministry as a ministry of communion and centre of communion for the lay faithful. In a not dissimilar way, it is not clear that the themes of justice and reconciliation, and of suffering and healing, will be developed in a way consonant with the overall theme - though, of course, it is possible that that will be the case.

What I think is of particular note is the theme for the Monday of the Congress: Exploring and Celebrating our Communion through Baptism. The plenary celebration for this day is to be an ecumenical liturgy that celebrates baptism. And the person who will preside at this celebration is the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough. One can ask two questions, from somewhat opposite perspectives, about the choice of a non-Catholic cleric to preside over an event at a Catholic Eucharistic Congress.

1. If baptism, as the first sacrament of initiation, is seen as being oriented towards the last of the sacraments of initiation, that is, the Eucharist, and in particular, reception by the person who has been baptised of the Eucharistic Jesus. If this is so, is it appropriate for someone who is not in communion with the Catholic Church and therefore not in Eucharistic communion with Catholics, to preside at a celebration of baptism that is premised, by virtue of its being part of a Eucharistic Congress, on the orientation of baptism towards Eucharistic communion?

2. Since baptism is the foundation of that imperfect unity that exists between Christians of different denominations, then it appears to be quite appropriate that this celebration of baptism should be ecumenical in nature. Seen from this perspective, the choice of a non-Catholic cleric to preside over the celebration is an authentic challenge to Catholics taking part in the Congress to recognise that degree of unity that does exist. The extent of this unity was emphasised by Pope Benedict during his meeting with leaders of other Christian denominations in Cologne:
I feel the fact that we consider one another brothers and sisters, that we love one another, that together we are witnesses of Jesus Christ, should not be taken so much for granted. I believe that this brotherhood is in itself a very important fruit of dialogue that we must rejoice in, continue to foster and to practice.

Among Christians, fraternity is not just a vague sentiment, nor is it a sign of indifference to truth. As you just said, Bishop, it is grounded in the supernatural reality of the one Baptism which makes us all members of the one Body of Christ (cf. I Cor 12: 13; Gal 3: 28; Col 2: 12).
It is absolutely right that time should be given to consideration of the sacrament of baptism during a Eucharistic Congress whose theme is that of Eucharistic communion. The particular way chosen to do this during the Dublin Congress next June presents an interesting juxtaposition of questions. It is to be hoped that participants and organisers will be sensitive to the significance of these questions for the plenary liturgy on the Monday of the Congress.

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