Together we proclaim the joy of the Gospel
Meeting of the Bishops of the Catholic Eastern Rite Churches in Europe
Lisbon-Fatima, Portugal, 20-23 October 2016
In the Catholic Church, the faithful of the Latin rite as well as the faithful of the Oriental Catholic Churches are always at home wherever they are on the European continent. They are all children of one Church and together they proclaim the joy of the Gospel of Christ. This strong sense of belonging to a single universal Church and sharing the same mission of evangelization accompanied the conclusion of the Meeting of the Bishops of the Oriental Catholic Churches in Europe who gathered in this Year of Mercy in Fatima (October 20-23) along with the representatives of some Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Western countries (France, Germany, Italy, and Portugal) on the theme, The Pastoral Care of the Faithful of the Oriental Catholic Churches in Western European Countries.
At the end of the meeting, the participants approved a final message (see attached file).
After the opening session, which was held in Lisbon and was attended by the local Archbishop-Patriarch, Cardinal Manuel Clemente, the participants started their meeting-pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, which in 2017 will commemorate the centenary of the apparitions.
At Fatima, the fifty-seven bishops participants have begun by analysing in-depth the basic reasons of the migration of many faithful of the Oriental Catholic Churches. Then they focused on the pastoral challenges of integration, both at a social and ecclesial level, and at the end they discussed the theme of dialogue between Churches of different rites within the Catholic Church.
The meeting took place in an atmosphere of cordiality and friendship. The work, which was held in the form of pilgrimage, has been enriched by the visit of the places related to Marian apparitions at Fatima. Prayer and the daily celebration of the Divine Liturgy were made easier by the atmosphere of recollection and prayer at the Shrine of Fatima. After a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Nossa Senhora da Nazaré (Our Lady of Nazareth), in the afternoon of Saturday, October 22, the bishops gathered at the Shrine of Fatima for a prayer to the Mother of God, presided over by Archbishop Cyril Vasil', Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. In the evening, they participated in the traditional Saturday Marian Vigil with the procession of the candles and the recitation of the Holy Rosary.
The meeting also included a presentation by a Vatican journalist of Radio Renaçenza, Ms. Aura Miguel, about the history and meaning of the three parts of the secret related to the Marian apparitions at Fatima, especially in relation to the pontificate of St. John Paul II, the Pope who, especially after the assassination attempt he suffered in 1981, had a very close relationship with the Portuguese shrine.
The meeting, organized by the Council of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) - represented at Fatima by its president, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, was also attended by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches; His Beatitude the Patriarch Gregorios III Laham of Antioch of the Greek-Melkites; the Apostolic Nuncio in Portugal, H. Ex. Mgr. Rino Passigato; and the Archbishop of Braga, H. Ex. Mgr. Jorge Ortiga.
The meeting ended on Sunday, October 23, with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the Holy Trinity Church presided over by His Beatitude Svlatoslav Schevchuk.
The next meeting will take place in autumn 2017 in London (United Kingdom) at the invitation of H. Ex. Mgr. Hlib Lonchyna, Bishop of the Eparchy of the Holy Family of London of the Ukrainians and Apostolic Visitor for the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic faithful in Ireland.
The first meeting took place in 1997 in the diocese of Hajdúdorog (Hungary) and was promoted by Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, who wanted to create a space where the bishops of those churches, which had been particularly damaged by atheistic regimes, “may find with ever greater clarity their role in today’s Europe and be loved and respected for their history of loyalty to the Church and to the Pope, paid at a dear price” (From Cardinal Achille Silvestrini’s Introduction to the Acta of the first meeting).
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