Tuesday 14 September 2021

International Eucharistic Congress: President Janos and Patriarch Bartholomew I

 The website of the Budapest International Eucharistic Congress now carries reports of some of the events during the Congress. Two of these events have caught my eye.

The first is the testimony of the President of the Hungarian Republic, given on Friday 10th September, which is reported under the title: A coincidence or the will of the Lord? It is significant that a person who is the representative figure of the Hungarian state should be willing to offer a testimony at a Eucharistic Congress. President Janos testimony referred to three different situations where he believes he has experienced a "coincidence" that was rather a sign of God's presence. Do read the whole of the report to gain a full flavour of President Janos testimony.

The testimony of the President of the Republic of Hungary was closed with the conclusion that searching for and accepting God needs real activity, it cannot be a passive action. “We all receive our signs, and it is up to us whether we take them as a simple story or a parable. It is up to us to see it as a ‘coincidence’ or God’s action.” Áder János is of the belief that “if we well apply the talents we have been entrusted with, if we are looking for God in our hearts, souls, and actions, then we will surely find Him.”

It is also interesting to place this testimony alongside President Janos speech before the Hungarian National Assembly after his election as President in May 2012. A written text of that speech can be found here; a video recording with English subtitles is here. It is worth persevering through to the end, again to gain a sense of the full context. I have not yet had time to read President Janos' other speeches which are linked from those pages.

The second event is the speech of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. This was given before the celebration of Mass on the Saturday of the Congress, and the Eucharistic procession which followed the Mass. It is interesting that Patriarch Bartholomew I's speech was so closely linked to the Eucharistic celebration and procession, and there is a clear ecumenical significance in his being present.

Patriarch Bartholomew also spoke at length about the need of the reconciliation the Eastern and Western Churches. He declared: The eucharistic realization of the Church in the common chalice and in the shared Christian witness in the world is the vision and the dream of all of us”. Regarding the schism he cited Father Georges Florovsky who said that according to the plan of God should not have taken place”, since Christians belong to the very same spiritual space, East and West organically belong together in the unity of Christendom” – quoted again Father Florovsky according to whom we can call the two denominations cultural sisters” or even Siamese twins”. The Patriarch of Constantinople invited the pilgrims to pray to the merciful God to strengthen and bless our endeavors to advance on the path to unity”.

Patriarch Bartholomew also used a neat phrase to describe how the presence and actions of those who have celebrated the Eucharist should be lived as a kind of "liturgy after the Liturgy". The report of Patriarch Bartholomew's speech ends by referring to the recognition in the year 2000 of St Stephen of Hungary as a saint to be honoured by the Orthodox churches:

In 2000 in front of the Basilic of Saint Stephen’s Basilica His Holiness Bartholomew I Patriarch in a Holy Mass issued the bull about the honoring as saint of our first king Saint Stephen also in the orthodox church. The orthodox church leader’s gesture was extraordinary because since the schism on behalf of the the orthodox church there has been no example of recognition as own one of the Roman Catholic Church’s saint. The person of Saint Stephen, Hungarian king is a bridge between Eastern and Western Churches. 

Monday 13 September 2021

March for Life: London 2021

I was not able to take part in this year's March for Life in London on 4th September because of a family commitment - but a report of the march can be found here: March for Life UK - A Resurgence of Life. Videos of the day can be found here: The Talks and Highlights. The videos include testimonies during the rally in Parliament Square, and the talk from Bishop Paul Swarbrick, of Lancaster Diocese.

‘All lives matter! It’s not that some matter more than others but some do need that bit more love, they are so easily overlooked.’

Thursday 9 September 2021

Assisted dying/euthanasia: three thoughts

Earlier this afternoon, I listened to an item on BBC Radio 4's PM programme. Featuring Baroness Meacher and Robert Winston, it discussed reasons for and against proposed legislation to allow assisted dying/euthanasia. If you are reading this within 29 days of my posting, you will be able to listen to the item on BBC Sounds, here. The item occurs immediately after the news summary at the beginning of the programme.

In two distinct ways, it was the references to suffering and burdensomeness in the discussion that have prompted the following thoughts.

What does it mean if I suggest that "I do not want to be a burden on others"?

For a person who experiences an illness that is, to a small or to a greater extent, life limiting, there is merit in keeping as much independence and self-sufficiency in daily living as long as that is possible. But, as with those who have good health, that independence and self-sufficiency is nevertheless lived in a relation to others and not in an individualised bubble - it encounters bus drivers, shop staff, etc, the people of daily living. Our lives are shared with others, even when we are in good health.

There is nevertheless a graciousness in accepting assistance when that becomes necessary, be that social care or medical care. This graciousness has a reciprocal dimension - it does not just exist from the point of view of the person experiencing illness but also finds a reflecting mirror in the people who provide care. And it does not extend just to those who might provide care to a particular patient but extends to wider society too. 

The recognition of this reciprocal graciousness is sadly absent from our society's conversation about end of life care and so, for some, the conversation is framed in terms of being a burden to others. That framing is often exclusively voiced from the point of view of the patient who is ill, which is to neglect the place of those who are potential carers. Surely our society needs to be much better in encouraging this reciprocal graciousness in our care for those experiencing serious illness.

Experiencing illness as you approach the end of life.

Perhaps we could all do well to think to some extent about what it means to experience serious illness and come to the end of our lives. What it does do is create a very special - and that does not mean that it is easy - time for a patient and their relatives/friends to have together. Clearly, different people will experience this differently, depending upon their individual situations; some will find it more difficult than others. But, at least for many, there is an opportunity for a specially shared time together with the patient who is coming to the end of their life. [This isn't theory on my part, but something I have been privileged to see a number of times.] 

What would happen to this time if, because assisted dying/euthanasia were legally permitted, that possibility were admitted to the conversation? Or if, as has happened with legalized abortion, the offering of the opportunity for assisted dying/euthanasia comes to be seen as a normal practice of health care on the part of medical professionals?

It really is not good enough to say that people would have a freedom to choose assisted dying/euthanasia or to not choose it; so why not permit it for those who would choose it. With legalised assisted dying/euthanasia, everyone is put in a position where they have to make a choice, even if that choice is implicit. Everyone's experience of the end of life is affected, and that special time is irretrievably altered for everyone.

Unnecessary suffering.

I believe that it is entirely possible with proper end of life care for a patient not to have to endure unmanageable pain. And, with sufficient commitment to pastoral care, both the patient and relatives/friends can be supported through what might be termed the anguish that accompanies the end of life. If relatives/friends are worried about unnecessary suffering by  the patient, that is a result of poor care both for the patient and for the relatives/friends. And it is not unusual for an end of life patient to "let go" when they are ready, and a key element of their care is recognising when that can come about. In the mean time, that privileged time that is the end of someone's life deserves to be respected rather than curtailed. 

My two thoughts above, of course, do also feed in to this third thought.

Tuesday 7 September 2021

"... All my springs are in you" :International Eucharistic Congress 2021

Like the Olympic Games, the Budapest International Eucharistic Congress was originally due to take place in 2020 but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is taking place this week, with the closing Statio Orbis Mass to be celebrated by Pope Francis on Sunday 12th September.

The home page for the Congress is here: 52nd International Eucharistic Congress.

The theme of the Congress is taken from Psalm 87, which reads in the RSV translation that is closest to the expression of the adopted theme: 

On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.... 
Singers and dancers alike say
"All my springs are in you".

This video clip rather nicely explains the theme and logo of the Congress: Logo of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress.

A video of the opening Mass of the Congress, celebrated on Sunday last, can be found on Youtube: IEC 2020: Opening Ceremony and Holy Mass. The celebration of Mass itself begins at 2:35:00.

I have yet to find online English texts or videos of the various catecheses and testimonies that are taking place, though a full programme for the Congress can be found here.

A couple of things have caught my eye so far. The first is a report of the theological symposium of the Congress that took place on 6th September. The programme for the symposium is here; the English report is here, with the Italian version of the report here. The English report seems to have suffered a little in the translation, so I offer instead my own translation from the Italian of the part that caught my eye:

[Participants] indicated, among other things, that if we wish to preserve the Liturgy of the Church into the future, instead of a desacralisation and of a deformation, we must continue to consider it as a sacred event, in a strictly formal context. They also said that the Gospel, fertilizing and renewing the history of humanity, must shine its own light and force in the same way in our secularised world.

Hanno indicato tra l’altro, se vorremmo conservare la liturgia della Chiesa anche nel futuro, al posto della desacralizzazione e della deformazione dobbiamo continuare a considerarla come un evento sacro, in un rigido contesto formale. Hanno anche enunciato che il Vangelo, fecondante e rinnovante la storia dell’umanità, deve splendere la sua luce e la sua forza proprio allo stesso modo nel nostro mondo secolarizzato.

The second is the subject of one of the workshops, which will be given by Bishop Massimo Camisasca, ordinary of the diocese of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla. He is a native of Milan, where one of his school teachers was Luigi Giussani. He has a long standing and leading position with respect to Don Giussani's movement Communion and Liberation. His subject is one of immediate relevance to the area of his present pastoral responsibility in the northern part of Italy: the martyrdom of Italian priests after World War II.