Once again much time was given to the report of the International Liturgical Commission, to inner-church matters, and to ecumenical and bilateral relations at this year’s annual meeting of the International Bishops’ Conference.
The International Liturgical Commission, chaired by Bishop Hejbal (CZ), presented the IBC with two proposals for the blessing of holy oils. The proposals draw on the existing variety of practice within the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht. The one foresees the blessing within the Eucharistic prayer, in the other the blessing precedes the Eucharistic prayer. The IBC approved both variants. It was, however, suggested that the text of the Eucharistic prayer be re-worked. As soon as this has been completed, the proposals will be circulated to all churches of the Union of Utrecht for consideration.
The commission also proposed changes to the ordination services to the diaconate, presbyterate and episcopate. The changes relate to the anointing and the position of the ordination rite within the service. After lengthy discussion the IBC decided, with regard to both these aspects, to retain the existing practice. There are points in the text which need to be re-worked.
The talks begun by the IBC with the Polish Mariavites in 2007 have proven to be difficult. Both the Polish Catholic Church and the Mariavites have found it difficult to befriend the idea of a rapprochement which would enable a deeper co-operation. This difficulty clearly stands in the way of the ecclesiological principle of one Old Catholic Church in a given territory. As a gesture of goodwill, the IBC decided that the leading bishop of the Mariavites would be invited to attend the IBC as guest for the next five years, based on the agreement of 1985. During this time there would be talks on dogmatic and theological questions. At the end of this period the situation would be reviewed and the question of membership of the Union of Utrecht would be formally addressed.
The visit of an Old Catholic delegation to the Indian Mar Thoma Church went very well. The IBC aims to strengthen ties in the foreseeable future. This would include a meeting of bishops to take place immediately prior to the International Old Catholic Congress in Zürich in 2010.
Archbishop Vercammen presented a paper to the IBC which had been some years in preparation and addressed the ecumenical tasks and challenges of the Union of Utrecht. The paper contains a commitment to continue to work on existing ecumenical relations but also to be open to churches which live catholicity and to work to build up a worldwide circle of friendship.
The guests from the Anglican Communion thanked the IBC for the co-operation between the churches and reported on the situation of the Anglican Church worldwide, which continues to be difficult.
Dr. Franz Segbers presented the final report of the working party ‚Catholicity and Globalisation’, a group consisting of theologians from the Anglican Church, the Philippine Independent Church and the Old Catholic Church. He proposes a continuation of the work on several fronts. The texts of the commission should be published so that they may serve as basis for conferences or seminars in educational institutions. It is also suggested that a brochure be produced on the history of the Independent Church suitable for use in parishes. Furthermore it is intended to look into the possibility of an exchange project and establishing a project for the pastoral care of Philippine migrants. Dr. Segbers hopes that such activities will raise awareness within the churches and parishes that they belong to a worldwide catholic church.
The next meeting of the International Bishops’ Conference is to take place from 13th to 16th June 2010.
Amersfoort and Berne, April 2009
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