Maximilian Pal: Orientalium Ecclesiarum. Alcuni principi giuridici sulle Chiese orientali cattoliche

Orientalium Ecclesiarum is noteworthy primarily for its exaltation of the equal dignity and relative autonomy of the Eastern patriarchates and its specific prescriptions for increased communion with the separated Orthodox. While this brief document lacks the extensive ecclesiological discussion of Lumen Gentium and Unitatis Redintegratio, its treatment of these two matters gives insight into how the Council interpreted and applied its ecclesiology. The decree’s treatment of the patriarchates makes clear that the particular Churches are essential to the Church’s constitution. They exist by right, not by concession, and on equal terms as regards dignity and jurisdiction, being answerable to none but the supreme authority in the Church. The Pope is considered only in his role as Supreme Pontiff, not as Latin patriarch, to avoid giving any impression that the Latin Church enjoys any jurisdictional superiority over the Eastern Churches. The relative autonomy of the Eastern Churches would be matched by that of future patriarchates, as envisioned by the Council. Thus the Church might adapt to the diversity of the world’s cultures by organizing herself in the ancient system of patriarchates and autonomous eparchies.
In the post-Conciliar period, only the second aim of Orientalium Ecclesiarum was effectively implemented. There is increased communion in sacramental and extra-sacramental practices between Eastern Catholics and Orthodox, mainly to meet the pastoral needs occasioned by geographic dispersion. Yet the expected restoration of patriarchal status never really occurred, as the Eastern patriarchates tend to be governed under a common rule imposed by the supreme authority through the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, which imposes even the norms of ecumenism and other reforms.

DT354_Maximilian PAL

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