Ecumenical Engagement

By Rev. Fr. Carlos Reyes
Minister, Ministry on Ecumenical and Inter-Faith Affairs

An Ecumenical engagement was held at the Villa San Miguel between Rev. Fr. Carlos V. Reyes of the Ministry of Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs of the Archdiocese of Manila and some members of the clergy of the North American Old Roman Catholic Church headed by Bp. Joselito Sarigumba and Bp. Celes Gianan last September 14, 2023. Certain thorny issues were discussed in a candid but fraternal manner and the meeting was cordial and friendly. It was resolved that there be future engagements so as to promote Ecumenism and prevent future misunderstandings.

The Villa San Miguel

We recall that the Villa San Miguel, beginning with H.Em. Jaime Cardinal L. Sin, is a privileged place of Ecumenical and Interreligious engagements. There have been numerous ecumenical engagements at the Villa San Miguel headed by the Archbishops of Manila. Many members of the various faith communities remember Villa San Miguel with fondness.

The Roman Catholic Church and the NAORCC

The Archdiocese of Manila is part of the Roman Catholic Church headed by His Holiness Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome who resides and holds office in the Vatican located in the City of Rome. The Missionary Society of Saints Peter and Paul North American Old Roman Catholic Church Utrecht Succession (which should not be confused with the Roman Catholic Church notwithstanding the similarity in nomenclature) is present here in the Philippines. They recognize the Metropolitan Archbishop, the Most Reverend Ivan Alberto Castañeda, DD as their head.

The North American Old Roman Catholic Church (NAORCC) accepts most Catholic teachings including those of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. They also accept the teachings of Vatican II. One difference is the fact that Roman Catholic clergy embraces priestly celibacy while the NAORCC permits optional celibacy.

From hence on, because of the similarity in nomenclature, we would refer to the Church in Rome headed by Pope Francis as Roman Catholic and the Missionary Society of Saints Peter and Paul North American Old Roman Catholic Church Utrecht Succession as NAORCC.

Painful Divisions

There have been painful divisions in the past which inflicted wounds in the Body of Christ. Unfortunately, these divisions continue to this day.

Ecumenism is a movement towards Christian Unity between the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations. Ecumenism is different from Interreligious Dialogue which is the relationship with men and women of other Faith Traditions like Islam, Buddhism, etc.

Here, we will focus on Ecumenism which is the search for Christian Unity.

Of particular concern is the search for unity in the understanding and acceptance of the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM) administered by the various ecclesial communities. There has been progress in the area of Baptism where the Roman Catholic Church accepts the validity of baptisms administered by other ecclesial communities.

A painful thorn is the Eucharist and Ministry. Roman Catholic clergy are prohibited from concelebrating Mass with clergy of other ecclesial communities. This is the reason why Roman Catholic churches require the presentation of a Celebret from a priest who is not known to them but wishes to concelebrate in a Roman Catholic Mass. A Celebret is a letter (or an Identification Card) from a Roman Catholic bishop or religious superior testifying that the bearer is a priest and asking that he be permitted to say mass in dioceses other than his own

Furthermore, Roman Catholics may only receive Holy Communion from Catholic Ministers. For us Roman Catholics, Holy Communion should be a sign of a unity that has already been attained, not a desire for Unity that still does not exist. This is a most painful wound and we pray that the pain caused by this wound impel us to strive for Christian Unity. As much as we desire Christian unity, it is still not a reality and making it seem like there is unity sends a signal that it doesn’t matter where one worships.

Shadows and Lights

There are numerous shadows in the search for Christian Unity but there are also numerous pinpoints of light. There are Bishops, priests, religious and lay persons from the Roman Catholic Church and the other ecclesial communities who devote themselves to the search for unity. May we not be discouraged by the difficulties along the way and may the dream of Christian Unity become a reality. (Photo courtesy of Fr. Carlos Reyes)


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